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Traffic cameras catch cold hard facts

By Laura Halm
Published On: Mar 22 2013 03:59:47 PM CDT
Updated On: Mar 21 2013 11:00:00 PM CDT

Traffic cameras catch speeders and drivers running red lights. But did you know police in the Tri-Cities use these cameras to help solve crimes and crashes?

KINGSPORT, Tenn. -

Cameras are watching drivers at key intersections in the Tri-Cities and if you're caught breaking the law by running a red light or speeding, you'll end up paying.

But what you might not know is those cameras also provide cold, hard facts. We checked with police and learned cameras are helping in more ways than one.

You're on candid camera at 12 intersections in Kingsport -- traffic cameras keep a close eye on what you do behind the wheel when the light goes from yellow to red. "I think people running red lights, they need to get busted," said driver Richard Pike.

But those cameras catch crash video too, the kind that makes you want to cringe. Kingsport Police showed us one clip of a truck running a red light and slamming into a tractor-trailer.

What you might not know is that these cameras are an essential tool in piecing together who is at fault in an accident. "We've had several instances where the driver says, 'I really don't know what happened.' We pulled video back up, looked at it to see what happened," said Officer Dale Farmer.

Officer Farmer says those cameras hold a lot of data, things like how fast a car was going, how long the light was red, as well as the time.

But that's not all: take a hit-and-run accident for example. "By finding the tag number we can find the owner of the vehicle and then we can continue the investigation from that point forward," added Officer Farmer.

If you think the cameras in Mount Carmel just catch speeders, then you're wrong. Mount Carmel Police use their two traffic cameras as an investigative tool when it comes to burglaries. "If we have a description of a vehicle, we can go back to those cameras, check the videos, and see if that vehicle was in during that timeline that this crime was committed," said Officer Kenny Lunsford.

Back in Kingsport, officers watch live video on busy intersections. "We can pull up the feed real quick to see if cars have moved off the roadway or if we need to send additional units to help direct traffic," added Officer Farmer.

So those cameras are there to protect you in more ways than one. Kingsport Police tell us in the past, investigators have also used traffic cameras to establish a timeline in vehicle homicide cases.