Another tiff over traffic cameras

Another traffic camera lawsuit in Ohio makes two things clear – that local governments use the cameras for revenue, not safety, and that it’s not worth the trouble to use the devices.

With that in mind, Youngstown should reconsider its decision to install the cameras in school zones and Warren officials should dismiss any notion of re-introducing the idea here.

Southwest Ohio attorney Mike Allen says the speed cameras are ”nothing more than a money grab.” He wants a Hamilton County judge to shut down the system in Elmwood Village, near Cincinnati. Allen says the village has reaped $700,000 from tickets.

Allen is challenging the way the cameras were put into use last year, saying people’s due process was violated by insufficient notice and signage. Business owners and even a church pastor have said the speeding ticket blitz is deterring people from coming to the village.

Closing arguments in the lawsuit are scheduled for Jan. 24.

We heard the same complaints when Girard installed speed cameras many years ago. People began driving around, instead of to or through the city, reducing customers for commercial businesses. Complaints and lawsuits turned the cameras into such a political nightmare for those who supported the idea that they buckled and agreed for the cameras’ removal.

The complaints surfaced so vociferously in Warren that city leaders rejected the cameras before a single one was installed. But facing a difficult budget, talk of bringing cameras to Warren has resurfaced.

Using cameras in place of police officers means eliminating one process of catching criminals who are apprehended during routine traffic stops. Relying on cameras instead of officers also means reducing a town’s ability to catch impaired drivers. Cameras don’t make traffic stops.

To properly use cameras instead of officers, speeding must be reduced from a criminal offense to a civil one. That’s because cameras can’t testify against the suspects. This means wealthy drivers are free to speed as often or as much as they want without ever facing serious consequences – they can just pay their fines and continue driving.

The best course is to allow police officers to do their jobs, not hire machines to do it for them.