OLYMPIA, Wash. - Red light cameras are supposed to catch dangerous drivers, but police told lawmakers Tuesday they'd like to use the cameras to track down violent criminals.

Currently police are not allowed to access any photos for crimes that are not traffic related.
Seattle Police Deputy Chief Nick Metz told lawmakers changing the law might have made a difference in the unsolved murder of Nicole Westbrook.

The 21-year-old woman was killed in a drive-by shooting in Pioneer Square last April.

Detectives would have liked to have seen if any cameras took pictures of Nicole Westbrook's killer.

Police obtained a blurry surveillance image of the shooter's car from a nearby business, but police will never know if one of the city's 26 red light cameras might have snapped a picture of the car.

Most of the photos are deleted after a month or two.

Why shouldn't the police look at that and use that as evidence in a murder investigation? said King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg.

The ACLU of Washington told lawmakers allowing police access to the photos could open the door for the installation of more surveillance cameras around the state.

Are we going to be a society where there are government cameras everywhere, where that footage can be used against you down the line? said Shankar Narayan of the ACLU of Washington.

Satterberg said if the bill passes, the police would only be able to access photos with a search warrant, signed by a judge.

It's going to be specific, and very rare, but very useful, said Satterberg.

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