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Police departments fight traffic cam ban

Police departments fight traffic cam ban

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WTVN) -- The battle over red light and traffic cameras continues at the Ohio Statehouse. Some police departments are fighting a bill that would outlaw the devices. They say that while some communities haven't used them correctly, others are doing it right.

"Let's not throw out the technology because a couple of jurisdictions have got it wrong because they're not doing it right. There are no rules to it at this point," said Columbus Police Lt. Brent Mull.

Mull says for Columbus, the cameras are making intersections safer. Some have seen a 75 percent accident reduction rate with even a few seeing crashes reduced by 100 percent.

One of the most often used arguments against the cameras is that violators cannot face their accuser. Mull says that in Columbus a police officer reviews every video of a violation and decides whether or not to issue a ticket. A person who gets a ticket can ask for a hearing where they'll face that officer. So far, Mull says over 2,000 hearings have been held and about 250 tickets have been tossed - mostly due to administrative or paperwork errors.

Revenue from the cameras is given back to police.

"It's not going back into the general fund or some politician's slush fund," he said.

Mull would rather see a bill introduced by Sen. Kevin Bacon, a Columbus Republican, passed. It would set rules for using the cameras rather than banning them altogether.

"That almost seems like 'Let's regulate armed robbery, well instead of a gun you can only use a knife,'" said Rep. Ron Maag, a Lebanon Republican who sponsored the ban bill. 

Maag teamed up with Cincinnati Democrat Rep. Dale Mallory to push the legislation after a controversy over the use of the cameras in the Cincinnati suburb of Elmwood Place.

A Hamilton County judge ruled that the cameras were unconstitutional and that the village had to refund $1.8 million to people snagged by the cameras.

"The cameras are a money making scheme. Judge Ruhlman said it best when he said that it's a Three Card Monte scheme that the motorists can't win," said Maag.

He claims that if it were really about safety, not revenue, then violators would have points tacked onto their license and not just a fine. Maag says in the majority of places where the cameras have gone to the ballot, the public has asked for them to be pulled.

The Ohio House passed House Bill 69 last year. It's still before a Senate committee. Maag is hopeful that it will pass in some form.

 

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