LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Nearly 1,000 traffic cameras across southern Nevada provide vital information when it comes to crashes and commutes, but no government agency is recording the video information, leading some private citizens to do it themselves.
“You never expect to be in a car accident,” Jessica Goodey said. “It was shock.”
Goodey was in a car several years ago near Russell Road and Interstate 15 when a driver hit her from behind.
“He’s like, ‘Oh we’ll stop up there,’” she said about the quick interaction she had with the man. Then he drove off.
“He jumps on the freeway and leaves,” she said. It happened so quick; she did not snap a photo. She knows that can be a valuable piece of evidence because she is also an attorney.
“As a lawyer, how often are you able to find video?” the 8 News Now I-Team’s David Charns asked Goodey.
“In my 12 years of practice, I can’t think of a single incident,” she said.
More than 900 eyes from the Regional Transportation Commission are monitoring freeways and major intersections across southern Nevada. The feeds come back to a traffic management center in Las Vegas, where staff watches for crashes and delays to send resources.
“The cameras are incredibly useful for our needs,” David Swallow, RTC’s deputy CEO, said.
For RTC’s purposes, the cameras do not record.
“We don’t need the video,” Swallow said. “We need live information to respond to a real-time matter.”
The government may not be recording, but other people are.
“We record everything that the RTC allows us to record,” Ryan Wolf said. Wolf developed his own system to record the publicly available feeds.
“You could buy a house with what I spent on this,” he said as he showed off the software, which he said took him four years to build. Wolf is storing the videos on a server with a capacity of 2.9 petabytes – the space is large enough to hold nearly 30,000 movies in 4K resolution.
Wolf is recording all day, every day, and saving the files for a year, he said. He cannot control the cameras’ quality – RTC switches out older cameras over time and the resolution of newer cameras is much clearer – but there is data Wolf is capturing that attorneys and possibly police can find valuable.
“You can possibly validate that it happened,” Wolf said about incidents like crashes and hit-and-runs. “You can get a potential vehicle make and model and color. And that can go a long way in trying to then identify that person.”
The I-Team asked Las Vegas Metro police for its video retention policy. Documents indicate its surveillance cameras, a system separate from RTC’s, are for “monitoring.”
Some incidents, like those alerted to the regional terrorism center or Fusion Watch are recorded, the I-Team found. Those cameras are in high-traffic areas, like the Las Vegas Strip, or in high-crime areas.
The I-Team found no evidence local police are using the traffic network to solve crime — state law forbids them, at least in traffic-related infractions. A state law passed in 1999 prohibits police from using photos or video “for gathering evidence” unless the camera itself is in a police officer’s hand or in their car.
“We may not see a crime happen, but there might be some vital evidence of a car going through an intersection that Metro needs,” Wolf said.
That extra pair of eyes would have been helpful for Goodey, she said.
“It would have helped us identify who that was,” she said. “It would have caught his license plate. It would have a picture of the person. It would have a better picture of a car.”