Thursday, February 19, 2009

Residents Protest Traffic Cameras In Canton, Ohio


CantonRep.com staff report
Posted Feb 04, 2009 @ 10:02 PM
Last update Feb 04, 2009 @ 11:02 PM

CANTON —

Some residents are seeing red over plans to install traffic-enforcement cameras because they believe city officials see too much green.

The first public meeting to discuss the cameras, which was at Living Hope Christian Fellowship on Clark Avenue SW, attracted only about 19 people Wednesday evening. But the questions and comments from a skeptical audience flew like cars speeding through an intersection.

Nick Cincinat, 27, of Navarre, argued that the cameras would result in more rear-end collisions.

“If I have to slam on my brakes, and (my children) get hit because they’re rear-ended, it’s your fault,” he yelled.

Some accused officials of ulterior motives: Using the cameras to help address the city’s budget woes. The fines, which would be split between the city and the camera vendor, Redflex Traffic Systems, could range from $95 to $125 per ticket.

“To me, it seems like a form of entrapment,” said Steve Mardis, 59, of Canton. “It’s more about money than safety.”

But Mayor William J. Healy II said it was about reducing accidents.

“This is not a budget saver. This is not something we’re doing because we think it’ll bring more dollars in.”

The mayor said that as more people learned about the cameras, it was likely revenue from tickets would plunge in future years. Canton and the vendor have not yet negotiated the percentage split for the fines, but the city won’t have to pay for the equipment.

The city’s safety director, Thomas Nesbitt, said he was responding to residents’ complaints of vehicles speeding through their neighborhoods, endangering their children.

HOW IT WILL WORK

Aaron Rosenberg, a Redflex executive vice president, said City Council would first have to approve a contract and pass ordinances setting fine amounts. It’s not yet clear when that would be.

His company then would install sensors at intersections yet to be determined. Some could use radar, lasers or be embedded into the road to detect motion. Fixed cameras costing $80,000 to $125,000 would then be placed 12 feet above the ground, equipped with a flash to take pictures at night. Mobile cameras could be placed in city vehicles.

Any vehicle that crosses the intersection line after the light turns red or exceeds the speed limit would trigger the equipment, which would capture still images and video of the infraction and the offender’s license plate, but not the driver’s face. Rosenberg stressed that his company has no control over the timing of the traffic light. City Engineer Dan Moeglin said the length of time for yellow lights is set by industry formulas and would not be shortened to increase the number of tickets.

A police officer would review the pictures and video online. If there were mitigating circumstances such as ice, a passing ambulance, or a funeral procession, the officer would delete the files. For cases determined to be a violation, a ticket would be mailed to the vehicle owner’s address.

The envelope would include the images, as well as instructions on how to access the video online. The vehicle owner could pay, appeal or sign a sworn affidavit saying he wasn’t driving the vehicle, but he would have to name the driver.

Collection agencies would pursue the payment of unpaid fines. But because the tickets involve civil penalties, no points would be assessed on the driver's license.

Rosenberg said all intersections with the cameras would be clearly marked by signs.

“It’s not about being sneaky,” he said. “It’s a reminder to obey the law.”

Rosenberg said studies have shown that the cameras have reduced the number of accidents, saved lives and improved traffic flow.

Residents left unconvinced. Cincinat claimed Redflex was skewing traffic studies.

“The vast majority of mistakes don’t end in injury or death,” said Cincinat, who said such camera programs “rape” motorists “in their wallets, just because the city has a budget problem.”

“The people who dislike the systems are traditionally the scofflaws and that’s traditionally a minority,” said Rosenberg.

MEETINGS

More meetings on the traffic cameras will be held at 5 p.m. today at the Edward “Peel” Coleman Community Center at 1400 Sherrick Rd. SE and at 7 p.m. at the Stark County District Library’s branch at 189 25th St. NW.

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