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Nevada company records traffic cameras, catches more than just traffic

These are screen shots from a variety of traffic cameras from the Nevada Department of Transportation network
These are screen shots from a variety of traffic cameras from the Nevada Department of Transportation network
These are screen shots from a variety of traffic cameras from the Nevada Department of Transportation network
These are screen shots from a variety of traffic cameras from the Nevada Department of Transportation network
Posted at 11:30 AM, Aug 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-01 18:47:34-04

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Video of a plane crash, camera footage of a suspected freeway shooter.

The Las Vegas company National Traffic Video has recorded some unusual events captured by state traffic cameras.

Nevada Department of Transportation uses cameras to monitor traffic problems around the state.

There are thousands of NDOT traffic cameras. So many in fact, you may not even notice them, but they are scattered around Nevada on traffic lights and on freeways.

Until recently, the video has not been stored because the government does not record it. But the videos recorded by National Traffic Video have been useful for attorneys, insurance companies, and law enforcement.

Recently, traffic camera video proved useful in showing what happened in the moments before a tragic crash that led to the death of a 1-year-old boy. An arrest report, in that case, cites traffic camera video.

RELATED TO THE CRASH:

"[The videos] could produce some pretty crucial information and help solve the mysteries," said Michael Jorgensen with American Bio Engineers, which runs National Traffic Video.

"Especially those higher-speed accidents. "

But it's more than traffic.

Video from a camera on Interstate 15 south of the valley in 2018 captured the moment a single plane plunged from the sky and burst into a fireball. The video, while dark, was incredibly helpful for crash investigators.

"Oftentimes there's not a black box on board [small planes] and there's limited information," explained Jorgensen. "So the information in the video was a big help in being able to tell what the behavior of the plane was before the accident. "

RELATED: One confirmed dead in small plane crash near Jean

The National Transportation Safety Board's preliminary report cites the traffic camera video showing the intact plane was not on fire before the crash, rather it nosedived before it crashed and then caught fire.

The pilot was killed and the final report has not yet been released.

Then there was the still-unsolved case that rocked the valley last year in August.

Police called upon National Traffic Video to find a series of cameras capturing a mysterious white van as it drove on I-15 near Blue Diamond. Investigators say it was connected to a deadly road rage shooting.

RELATED: Woman arrested after road rage incident on Interstate 15

"It is a pretty large undertaking and there's a good reason that other organizations around the country do not record everything," said Jorgensen, "because it is a massive undertaking. But the research you can get from capturing hundreds of accidents...you really can't put a price tag on that. "

The live video is available to the public through websites NDOT provides on nvroads.com, but this is the first known private company to record the cameras, which is raising concerns about big brother watching you.

And that video being used against you in court.

"A government agency can't use any kind of video or photographic automated system to issue traffic citations," said attorney Adam Ellis with Panish Shea Boyle law firm. "And they can't hire another company to do that either and get around the law by paying someone else to do that. "

Ellis says as far as he sees there's a loophole in Nevada law.

Police can't issue traffic citations solely on the traffic camera video, but apparently they can use the video to show other criminal conduct.

"I could certainly see that being one aspect of a criminal case," said Ellis. "How a defense attorney would use that in a sense to argue that the statute.

"There's a loophole, a big hot loophole, in that intent of the statute is not being met by letting a third-party do what the government can't," he said.

Ellis says the U.S. Supreme Court has found no one has a reasonable expectation of privacy in their vehicles while driving on a public road. The cameras are legal, but he says using them in a criminal case is a gray area.

"The Supreme Court of Nevada hasn't addressed the issue," he explained, "so if that issue could very well make it up there and we could learn more in a few years' time. But at this point, it has not addressed the issue."

National Traffic Video charges insurance companies and attorneys for video, and that's how they fund the operation and secure the servers to store the data.

The company is planning to expand into California and Arizona next.

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