David Kucharsky, director of traffic and parking in Salem, would have preferred a simple e-mail or perhaps a phone call.
Instead, Kucharsky learned about a problem with drivers zipping through a busy city neighborhood and completely ignoring a stop sign the way that thousands of others had — by watching them online.
Last week, a 24/7 video feed of scofflaws blowing through the red sign became a must-watch event on the livestreaming website Twitch. Soon after it rippled through the Internet, thousands of viewers poured onto the video channel, “StopSignCam,” with some watching for hours to see which cars would choose to obey the law as they approached.
The camera is now broadcasting a different intersection in the city, after neighbors had privacy concerns. But the original feed gained so much attention, city officials are now taking a hard look at how they might fix the traffic issue, Kucharsky said.
“We’ve already started looking at it,” said Kucharsky, who briefly watched the video feed and called the lack of compliance concerning.
The stream went up in mid-February as “a good way to shed some light on the issue,” the person who runs “StopSignCam” said in a direct message on Twitch.
Its viewership started off small. But its popularity exploded after a TikTok video about the livestream was viewed more than 2 million times last Monday.
“I have found one of the most interesting streams on Twitch,” user jhbteam said on the social media app.
Some “streamers” were already aware of the camera feed before it pinballed online, and went to the residential intersection to stage lightsaber fights or do backflips for the camera.
“We put on a good show for the stream,” Twitter user @OD_Technology, who simulated a “Star Wars” fight scene with friends, said in a message to the Globe.
But as more people caught on, the antics intensified, an unfortunate byproduct of Internet fame. According to the video game website Kotaku, the site’s surge in popularity led to neighbors receiving unwanted food deliveries, pranks from viewers who figured out its location.
Salem police Captain Fred Ryan said he was aware of people’s grievances with the original livestream.
“I heard they were complaining they didn’t like all the attention the neighborhood was getting outside of the traffic issue,” he said.
The livestream’s moderator, who did not want to use his name, said once he learned neighbors were getting pizza deliveries he “stopped the stream to prevent that from happening.”
“I didn’t want any neighbors getting bothered,” he said.
A woman who lives next to the stop sign from the original livestream said in an interview that “no one expected” the feed to become as popular as it did. She acknowledged that the camera was mounted at her house, but said she was not behind the livestream itself.
“At the beginning they thought it was a good idea, because it brings attention to a problem in the area,” said the woman, who declined to give her name. “That’s why I let it be put up to begin with.”
Even though the original livestream was taken down for a few days, its replacement, which chronicles a different intersection nearby, has proved equally popular, perhaps because its stop sign is similarly ignored. The “StopSignCam” account now has 207,000 followers.
“I suppose people stay because it’s a dynamic viewing experience with a nice chat,” its creator said.
While it might seem tedious, watching the intersection has become something of a pastime for fervent fans, inspiring its own lingo as viewers track drivers’ habits. After all, Massachusetts drivers aren’t exactly known for their road etiquette.
There are “rollers,” drivers who slow down but don’t stop; “zoomers” who don’t slow down and speed through; “stoppers,” who come to a complete stop before the white line; and “forced stoppers,” who halt only because of turning traffic, not because the stop sign demands it.
For the statistically minded, a breakdown of activity is shared on a webpage called “stopsigncam bot.” There’s even a Reddit page “dedicated ... to the Twitch stream,” where fans can “discuss how often cars stop at the sign and other happenings on the stream.”
At 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, more than 900 people were logged on to the new livestream, which for privacy reasons uses a live-chat box to block out nearby homes. That number quickly shot past 1,100 as the morning progressed and more vehicles were on the road.
The camera’s owner also said the quality of the stream is intentionally bad, to prevent street signs and license plates from being identifiable.
One by one, cars can be seen rolling past the white line below the stop sign, barely pausing as they turn right or left and proceed into the intersection. Others stop briefly below the sign, in the faded crosswalk, and keep on moving. Some drivers — the so-called “stoppers” — follow the rules of the road, and come to a complete stop before proceeding.
At one point this week, a viewer told people in the chat to look out for a red truck. Later in the day, a red truck pulled up in a parking lot near the stop sign. The man got out with a handheld stop sign of his own, and went and stood by the intersection. The stunt garnered laughs from viewers.
The channel may have found a new focus, but the city still plans to address problems raised by the original webcast that landed on their radar last week. Kucharsky said the city’s traffic and parking commission will bring up the intersection at its next meeting in April. In the meantime, they will look at crash history in the area and figure out what — if anything — can be done.
“We aren’t aware of everything going on all of the time in the city, and we look to the public to bring things to our attention,” he said. “I’m glad it came to our attention.”