By on November 9, 2011

Voters in eight cities in three states cast ballots Tuesday to decide whether red light cameras and speed cameras should be used in their communities. Seven of the races went against the use of photo ticketing.

The night’s first results came from Ashtabula, Ohio where 60 percent of residents approved an amendment to the city charter stating that the city “shall not use any traffic law photo-monitoring device” unless a police officer personally issues the citation.

“I feel that the citizens of Ashtabula stood up,” Mark Leatherman, chairman of the Citizens of Ashtabula Camera Committee told TheNewspaper. “We had the police chief attacking and fighting citizens on this issue on Facebook. We stuck to our guns to get this passed.”

Leatherman and fellow volunteers held twenty rallies in support of the ballot measure, ensuring that voters understood that a “yes” vote meant no more cameras. In Garfield Heights, officials were far more aggressive in pushing cameras. Voters in the city had struck down photo enforcement last year, but the city council proposed a charter amendment permitting photo monitoring devices “in school zones and/or park and recreation areas only.” This idea found even less support than the cameras received last year. Fifty-four percent opposed the school zone speed cameras.

Redflex Traffic Systems of Australia kicked in at least $108,000 to fund the Safe Roads Ohio front group to campaign for cameras in both Garfield Heights and South Euclid — the equivalent of $15 per vote. This compares to the unfunded effort in South Euclid to put a stop to the cameras, which won 55 percent of the vote.

In East Cleveland, local officials went to the most extreme lengths of any contest to date to badger voters into supporting cameras. Off-duty police officers, in uniform and with their police cruisers parked on the curb, were ordered to go door-to-door to convince residents to vote to return the cameras. Last month, Mayor Gary Norton mailed layoff notices to thirty-six cops and fourteen firefighters, claiming the city would have to fire them if it lost the photo ticketing revenue. The strong-arm tactics worked, as the city picked up 54 percent of the vote.

In Washington State, municipalities and vendors like American Traffic Solutions (ATS) turned to the courts in an attempt to keep anti-camera initiatives off the ballot. As a result, most of the measures appeared as “advisory” votes that allow the city council to make the final call on camera use. In Longview, 59 percent of voters approved Initiative Measure Number 1, which was submitted as a complete ban on cameras but was watered down into a requirement that camera use be subject to advisory votes. Residents split on two city-proposed measures that stated red light cameras and speed cameras would continue to be used until May 1, 2012. Voters also elected anti-camera initiative co-sponsor Mike Wallin to the city council over speed camera proponent Steve Moon.

“Local activists in cities throughout the state began asking us (me, Nick and Tiffany Sherwood of, and Alex Rion of Washington State Campaign for Liberty) to help them rid their communities of camera surveillance from those obnoxious ticketing cameras,” Washington initiative guru Tim Eyman said in a statement. “Across the political spectrum, the citizens are rebelling against the unholy alliance of government and corporations profiting off the citizens with their taxation-through-citation scheme. The legislature made a huge mistake when they allowed cities to get hooked on camera profits and to get in bed with sleazy red-light camera companies. Olympia better start cleaning up the mess or else the people are going to do it for them.”

In both Bellingham and Monroe, the votes were 65 percent against the use of cameras. Dayton, Texas voters rejected red light cameras by the largest margin of the night, 70 percent.

Automated ticketing has lost in 22 of 23 ballot contests. Last month, voters rejected cameras in Albuquerque, New MexicoDuring the 2010 midterms, voters in Houston and Baytown, Texas as well as Garfield Heights, Ohio rejected red light cameras. The vote in Mukilteo, Washington was 70 percent against the cameras and 73 percent in Anaheim, California. In May 2010, 61 percent of Sykesville, Maryland voters overturned a speed camera ordinance. In 2009, eighty-six percent of Sulphur, Louisiana rejected speed cameras. The November elections included three votes: 72 percent said no in Chillicothe, Ohio; Heath, Ohio and College Station, Texas also rejected cameras. In 2008, residents in Cincinnati, Ohio rejected red light cameras. Seventy-six percent of Steubenville, Ohio voters rejected photo radar in 2006. In the mid-1990s, speed cameras lost by a two-to-one margin in Peoria, Arizona and Batavia, Illinois. In 1997, voters in Anchorage, Alaska banned cameras even after the local authorities had removed them. In 2003, 64 percent of voters in Arlington, Texas voted down “traffic management cameras” that opponents at the time said could be converted into ticketing cameras.


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12 Comments on “Voters in Seven Cities Reject Photo Enforcement...”

  • avatar

    These results are disappointing to me. I like the red light cameras near my condo in Florida. Way too may people deliberately run red lights, a major hazard for pedestrians going to and from the beach a block away.

    I’ve heard of shortened yellows and other tricks certain places to trap people and issue more tickets. I wouldn’t like that, but the setup here is “clean” by all accounts, and they cut some slack on creeping through on right turns.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s not about safety. It’s about revenue.

      Also, there’s the little constitutional rub of not being able to confront your accuser. I don’t want machines to enforce the law.

      • 0 avatar

        Some places, it IS about safety.

        In my area, they have video showing the whole sequence of events, showing the car and light at the same time. That’s better evidence than the word of one police officer. If they get revenue from it, that’s fine with me. You are supposed to stop for red lights. If they shorten yellows at the time they install the cameras, that is a problem, but they didn’t do that here.

    • 0 avatar

      Who couldn’t be for nailing people who deliberately run red lights and endanger pedestrians?

      The reality is for every citation to a late light runner who endangers anyone there are about 20 revenue tickets for rolling right turns or misjudging the yellow by one second or less.

      The one doesn’t justify the other.

    • 0 avatar

      kokomokid –

      I wish I could agree with you, but the reality is that camera enforcement has become nothing more than revenue generation for most communities. There is little evidence that they improve safety, and in many studies the cameras reduce it.

      If you want to see what a nightmare this will become – take a look at Chicago’s proposed new system, which will virtually ensure that anyone who drives will get ticketed.

      It’s revenue generation – plain and simple. If it proves successful at one intersection/street, you can be assured the program will expand to blanket your city. For those who argue that it punishes only those who break the law, then you would of course be willing to accept automated ticketing for crossing the road outside of a crosswalk, or leaving your garbage cans on the treelawn a few hours past their prime, or for your lawn growing .25″ taller than is permissible, or for your stereo being a bit too loud or your paint a bit too dingy or your driveway a bit too cracked or your windows a bit too dirty.

      My (overly dramatic) point is to say that the number of infractions for which the city could implement automated ticketing is virtually endless. Partner up with a company who does digital surveys (like the trucks you see doing Google mapping) and they could drive down your street, photo survey the neighborhood and simply send tickets for any level of minor infraction imaginable.

      Our society shouldn’t be interested in punishing everyone for minor infractions, we should be paying attention to repeat offenders who truly endanger our communities. For that, we need police officers to scan, reprimand, ticket if necessary and reinforce through their presence, not through a mailed ticket.

      • 0 avatar

        …but what you describe is not what’s going on, at least where I am. It is for running red lights. They even cut you slack for rolling right turns on red. I know. I saw the flash while I was doing that, and I didn’t get a ticket.

        Like everything else, “automated ticketing” needs to be done in a reasonable manner, and in the case of the red light cameras in my area, it is.

  • avatar

    In Minnesota it is against the state constitution for law enforcement to use red light cameras (they tried in Minneapolis a few years back and it actually INCREASED accidents). It is also against the state constitution to conduct ‘sobriety checkpoints’. The more you know…

  • avatar

    I cant stand these electronic ticketing devices to think 50% of the ticket goes straight out of our country is mind-numbing. UP yours ATS please pack up all your crap and leave. Take down the ugly cameras and please let the door wack you in the _ _ _ on your way out! If you want to ticket people for running red lights then have a cop write the tickets, its not that hard, oh wait I forgot this is about money not jobs.

    • 0 avatar

      There you go.
      Hire lower paid “Junior Deputies,” or some such nonsense.
      Their job would be to handle one specific intersection all day every day giving out tickets for all infractions. Should be enough revenue to pay for their job.

      These systems are marketed on safety, but that is such a complete scam. It’s all about the money. Kokomo Kid’s intersection may anecdotally be safer, but that would be just an unintended side effect.

      • 0 avatar

        Yeah, I don’t have any actual statistics, but since the cameral has been there, I don’t have to wait as long for people to stop running the light before crossing the street on foot.

    • 0 avatar


      Nice rant. While Redflex is from Oz, it’s a bit player compared to ATS, a true blue US company.

      Of course, ATS is a subsiary of Transcore LP, itself owned by Roper Industries, a fairly well known US company headquarted in Florida. Your money (mostly) stays home.

  • avatar

    The city where I live, Redmond WA cancelled their contract with ATS a couple of weeks ago. The cameras will be turned off in January.

    They mailed out $800,000 of tickets, after all was said and done they netted $80,000 after all the expenses were paid.

    Data showed more accidents with the cameras than without them.

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