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Courts and Crime

Coalition fights to keep red-light cameras in Ohio
A group of law enforcement officials is fighting to keep red-light cameras from being banned in Ohio.

Andy Chow
Sen. Kevin Bacon says standards could be a compromise on red-light cameras.
Courtesy of State of Ohio
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In The Region:
Communities around the state are waiting to find out what the future holds for traffic cameras. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are split on the subject; one side wants to ban the devices and the other side wants to regulate their use. Statehouse correspondent Andy Chow talked to a group of law enforcement hoping the cameras get to stay.
LISTEN: Chow on red-light debate

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Republican state Sen. Kevin Bacon is trying to find a way to avoid an all-out ban on cameras that watch for drivers who run red lights or speed. The Columbus-area legislator says the devices used to catch law-breaking drivers at dangerous intersections are reducing crashes and making areas safer.

The Senate is debating a bill that would prohibit the use of traffic cameras anywhere in the state. Bacon is introducing a measure that avoids a ban and implements a statewide standard instead.

A coalition of law enforcement and safety officials gathered in the Ohio  Statehouse to support Bacon’s effort. That includes Sergeant Brett Bauer, with the Springfield Police Department, who says a ban would send the state in reverse.

“If there’s technology that allows us to reduce these crashes — a technology that’s working — there’s no reason to ban it in our state," Bauer said. "These cameras allow our police departments to deter dangerous driving where red- light running and speeding are most prevalent and we fear that removing them from our streets would lead to more crashes.”

A fundraiser?
Democratic Rep. Dale Mallory is a co-sponsor of the bill to ban the cameras. He says municipalities are abusing the devices to generate revenue. Mallory argued during a speech on the House floor in June that the companies manufacturing and operating these cameras are partially to blame because of their aggressive sales push.

“This bill is a bipartisan effort to protect Ohioans from the overuse of excessive fines," Mallory said. "Camera programs have been repeatedly rejected by both voters and the courts but they continue to be spread throughout the state by companies from out of town with clever names and sales tactics.”

Lt. Brenton Mull with the Columbus Police Department recognizes Mallory’s concerns, but urges lawmakers to find some middle ground on the issue.

“There are some agencies out there that just did not get it right, and I think we should have some kind of reform and I think Sen. Bacon is on the right track. We shouldn’t throw this whole thing out; I think we owe it to the citizens of the state of Ohio to make sure intersections are safe and if we can use technology to do that—I don’t know why we shouldn’t," Mull said.

Not the usual GOP-Dem divide
Democrats and Republicans fall on both sides of the debate. Supporters of the ban say using the cameras lacks due process for drivers hoping to defend themselves and refute the charges.

This is a dilemma that Bacon addresses in his bill. He says these are legitimate concerns but a ban is not the answer.

“It would be,I think, wise to create a statewide standard ...that I think would adequately address those concerns and allow the use of the cameras so we can continue to promote safety at our intersections across the state of Ohio,” Bacon said.

Among the provisions, Bacon says the bill would create a process that gives drivers an opportunity to argue their side of the story. It also contains public information measures to ensure that drivers know where the cameras will be located.

Lt. Mull says knowing where the cameras are helps reduce crashes and make driving safer for everyone.

“This is a force multiplier, and we’re able to change driver behavior and I know every single person in this room —including myself — when I see a cruiser driving down the road, maybe we’ll look down at our speedometer," Mull said. "We’ll hit our turn signal when we make a lane change. These lights that are controlled by photo red lights they, It works, changes your behavior."

The bill to ban traffic cameras has already passed the House. Bacon’s proposal has yet to be formally introduced.

Listener Comments:

The City of Cleveland has 40 cameras,they are not for safety,they're for generating money!! They say it's not that but look at the number this city has! It's unfair to the taxpayer getting gouged already but "big brother" has to have his way!! That's unfair!!!!

Posted by: Antoine (Cleveland) on November 16, 2013 6:11AM
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