CUMBERLAND, R.I. (WPRI) — This Thursday, the Cumberland School Committee will vote on a contract to put cameras on the outside of school buses, but the program is not expected to cost taxpayers.
Cumberland Police Chief Matthew Benson told Target 12 the department would use the fines from the cameras to pay the vendor.
According to Benson, the cameras would start recording as soon as the stop sign is triggered.
The vendor sends that video to the department where police will decide if a citation needs to be issued.
While Benson believes most people follow the law, he hopes this tool will allow them to hold people accountable, which has been a challenge for this particular type of crime in the past.
“Unless an officer is literally behind that bus or near a bus stop and they see those were the only times we used to be able to issue a citation,” Benson said.
Target 12 surveyed school districts across the state Tuesday and found that only a handful of districts have the cameras, like Warwick, which has 5.
Most districts that respond to that survey reported that while they have internal cameras, they do not have exterior cameras.
In 2015, the Providence Police Department issued more than 800 citations using the school bus stop cameras.
Target 12 obtained video of multiple infractions captured by Providence school buses back in 2016.
In one instance, a child was hit by a person on a moped while crossing the street. The stop sign was still flashing when the crash happened, but the moped driver took off.
Another video showed five cars driving through the flashing red stop sign. They only stopped when a bus monitor walked into the street.
Now, with Cumberland considering the cameras, people like Ellen Caruso support the them.
“[Kids] just want to get off the bus and get home safe,” Caruso said.
A mother and a third grade teacher for Cumberland Public Schools, she said none of her students have been hit by a car, but there was a close call.
“I had a little boy in my class who last year was at his grandmother’s house and they let their dog outside and somebody went around the bus and ended up killing the dog,” she said.
There are penalties if someone blows through a school bus stop sign. Benson said people can be fined between $250 and $500 in Cumberland and lose their license for up to 30 days.
“It’s a pretty hefty fine but it’s a pretty significant issue and so one mistake and you could have the loss of life of a child,” he said.
If the contract is approved Thursday by the Cumberland School Committee, Benson plans to have the cameras ready in the next few months, but likely not in time for the new school year.