Should Sandusky green-light the use of traffic-enforcement cameras?
RedFlex Traffic Systems representative Catherine Stinson-Petzel thinks so — she made her pitch to city commissioners Monday night.
The speed cameras will help catch people who “aggressively and egregiously break the laws,” Stinson-Petzel said.
The city is contemplating speed cameras near railroad crossings, school zones and high-incident intersections. They may also use the cameras for red-light enforcement.
“Everything in photo enforcement is purely to supplement the police department in this tough economy,” Stinson-Petzel said.
City commissioners didn’t make any decisions at the meeting, though residents and city leaders asked pointed and occasionally hostile questions about RedFlex and its cameras.
City commissioner Dave Waddington wanted to know if the cameras increase the frequency of rear-end collisions, as indicated by some data.
Resident Darlene Armour wanted to know what percentage of Redflex employees were U.S. citizens, compared to how many were Australians on work visas.
Redflex is based in Australia, but it also has an office in Phoenix, Ariz.
Other residents said they’re concerned about the amount of ticket money that could be diverted to places outside Sandusky, while others are worried the cameras might have a negative impact on tourism.
Redflex has also been the occasional target of controversy in other cities, as one resident mentioned.
Former city commissioner Dannie Edmon said the cameras assume you’re guilty and force you to prove your innocence, contrary to American values.
“It seems to me that we’re doing jurisprudence in reverse,” Edmon said. “In this system, it seems you have to prove you’re innocent.”
Stinson-Petzel, remarkably calm at the meeting, said she was there simply to “dispel the myths” on photo-camera enforcement.
Rear-end collisions were one of the most controversial in her field, but in the end, the cameras don’t cause collisions, she said.
“Rear-end crashes happen for one reason only: Someone’s traveling too fast and too close to the vehicle in front of them,” she said.
She also said the cameras were constitutional in Ohio, according to the Ohio Supreme Court. Data also shows the cameras reduce fatal crashes.
Redflex also does not reduce the length of time a traffic light remains yellow, despite some myths that say otherwise, Stinson-Petzel said.
She also spent time discussing the cameras’ more technical aspects.
Three people at Redflex review each traffic violation, which ensures few mistakes are made, she said. Sandusky police then make the final call.
The cameras take 12-second videos — six seconds before the violation, six seconds post-violation — which might even help solve other nearby crimes, interim Sandusky police chief Charlie Sams said.
The city wouldn’t have to pay any money upfront to install the cameras. Instead, Sandusky would pay Redflex about 40 percent of the revenue the traffic tickets generate.
Communities usually set the ticket costs at $50 to $150, officials said.
Still, the cameras would come with peripheral expenses.
The city would have to pay for a city administrator and hearing officer to hear appeals on citations, while a police officer would be needed to review footage and determine if a violation was committed.
The city might also have to pay to enforce penalties on people who don’t pay, such as towing or tire clamps.
Ex officio mayor Dan Kaman said the extra revenue the tickets generate could help pay for re-hired police officers.
Commissioners said they’ll continue exploring their options.
“This was just a presentation tonight. It’s just an idea,” Kaman said. “Nothing is official about it.”
Also, pick up a copy of Tuesday's print edition to read about commissioner's decision to approve a $63,500 efficiency study of safety services, as well as commissioners' take on Kim Nuesse's fight to reclaim her spot as police chief.