Ohio Judge: "It is a Scam That Motorists Can't Win."

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth
ohio judge it is a scam that motorists can t win

“Elmwood Place is engaged in nothing more than a high-tech game of 3-Card Monty, (sic)” Ruehlman wrote, referring to a card game used by con artists.

And with that phrase, Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Robert Ruehlman stopped a six-thousand-ticket-per-month operation.

According to the Columbus Dispatch, the tiny village of Elmwood Place near Cincinnati, Ohio was partnered with speed-camera firm Optotraffic to write three tickets a month for every man, woman, and child residing within the municipal limits. Optotraffic received $41 of every $105 ticket. At the village boundaries, the speed limit drops from 35 to 25mph — a tactic used infamously by “the corruption capitol of Ohio”, New Rome. Unlike that now-defunct municipality, however, Elmwood Place doesn’t have a kangaroo court and outsized police force to do their dirty work. They simply sit back and let the private partnership with Optotraffic rake in over three hundred thousand dollars per month in fines.

No longer. Judge Ruehlman brought a halt to the proceedings with a permanent injunction. Elmwood Place plans to appeal, of course. This may be the start of a genuine legal dialogue about speed cameras in Ohio — or it may simply be a rare sensible and ethical act from the state’s judiciary. Let’s hope it’s the former.

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11 of 72 comments
  • DaddyOfPayton DaddyOfPayton on Mar 12, 2013

    I read the comments with great interest, as I helped get rid of New Rome in 2005 and sent more than a few letters about Linndale as well. (Nope, never had a ticket in either) The comment about pedestrians is specious; Linndale patrolled an interstate highway, which did not allow pedestrians. The other point that I need to reinforce is that if it REALLY is about safety, won't they continue to write tickets even with the profit motive removed? (Hint: No, they will not)

    • Golden2husky Golden2husky on Mar 12, 2013

      Will they ticket without the profit motive? Well, in my MIL's incorporated village, the town was going to place a $camera within that village. The village said, hey, if you are raising revenue within our village, we want 50% of the cut. Suddenly the data indicated that a "more safety related intersection" was located up the block out of the village, and the town's safety goals would be better met by placing the $camera there. Disgusting.

  • Redav Redav on Mar 12, 2013

    When I was working in Louisiana, one of the towns with a heliport (I think it was Cameron) had a speed trap where the limit dropped to 20 AND it was a perpetual school zone, even if it was at 2 am on a Saturday in summer. They also had a cop sitting there at all times from what I could tell. From all the accounts of coworkers, many towns in La use such speed traps for revenue. Now don't get me wrong, I actually support strict enforcement of speed limits, and I have no philosophical problem with cameras. But when it is set up for the purpose to be broken or nonsense zones created (like school zones in the middle of the night or 20 mph limits on open roads), then it is simply govt abuse & corruption.

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    • Redmondjp Redmondjp on Mar 12, 2013

      @golden2husky You are exactly correct. We had a pilot program in our city with four intersections set up with the cameras for a year. I attended some of the meetings with the city council where the police department presented the statistics. By far (something over 80% IIRC) the most tickets were for not stopping completely for a right turn which as you state, is not dangerous in most cases. It was maddening, because the stop line for the right turn lane was so far back from the intersection, that you had to first stop there (otherwise, ticket), creep forward, and then stop again in order to be able to see if it was safe to turn. I was paranoid about doing this because I didn't want to trigger the system by creeping forward after stopping the first time, so I would just sit and wait until the green light (backing up traffic, oh well). Fortunately, our council had a smidgeon of common sense and canned the entire photo-ticketing program after the evaluation period was over. Now, they're just putting up Big Brother cameras at all of the major intersections, monitored from a room at city hall.

  • JK43123 JK43123 on Mar 12, 2013

    These cameras are unconstitutional. I always felt it but couldn't figure out why until my wife came home one day and said I might get a ticket because she was stuck in traffic, in the middle of an intersection that has red light cameras and the light turned red before she was through. I thought, "why me" when I realized it reads the plate and the cars are in my name. And then it hit me: if a COP had pulled her over it would have been held against HER LICENSE. A cop is one way, a machine is another way? The law is the law. These cameras are unconstitutionally vague. (Never did get a ticket) John

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    • Redav Redav on Mar 12, 2013

      Your complaint about reading license plates is a non-issue. When cameras were used here, the tickets issued were for non-moving violations, such as illegally occupying an intersection as opposed to running a red light. The penalty (fine, knock against insurance, etc.) is less severe because it fits into the same class as a parking ticket. Note: the owner of a car is liable for parking tickets, not whoever was driving the car. As the owner, you are responsible for that car. If it is used to commit a crime, or is involved in injuring a person or damaging property, you as the owner are liable and can be sued. That's the law. They are constitutional (though perhaps unwise) unless a constitution is amended specifically to prohibit them.

  • CarnotCycle CarnotCycle on Mar 12, 2013

    About a year ago, for idle fun, me and a buddy made what we call the Fly Snipe. We used a DVD 20x burner laser (the thing cuts electric tape, marks wood, lights tissue paper on fire) with some double-AA's. With a strong IR filter and 'sighted in' it was the best fly-swatter I ever had. You'd see a fly on the wall and BWWZAAP suddenly fly have no wings. Reason I bring this up is Fly Snipe would inadvertently be an ideal weapon against pernicious cameras of all kinds - it would burn the CCD in them, especially with all those optics in the camera to focus the beam more. And you can fry the camera from long ways away if you want, after all its a frick'in laser. Heck, it'd burn through the shutter if the camera had a mechanical one. Given how pervasive cameras are becoming, and how corrupt they are used, Fly Snipe would be an antidote of sorts.

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    • CarnotCycle CarnotCycle on Mar 15, 2013

      @David "Piston Slap Yo Mama" Sanborn Given the resolution the cameras have, and the range, they would be easy to cook from a distance. All you have to do is hit the aperture where the lens is, and the optics finish aiming onto the delicate bits for you. The laser's own aiming optics would need a very strong filter to deal with any reflections coming back. That would also be potential defense for camera-maker, but unlike laser-user the camera-maker has no idea what laser they have to defense, (lots of good SS lasers across frequency spectrum these days). If camera-maker defends against all potential consumer-accessible lasers (wait for the bans on these things to start coming), they will have a camera that sees nothing. And if camera maker makes a pinhole-tiny optical path + sensor (like iPhone cam), it takes that much less energy to destroy, and makes the camera's ability to collect light on the sensor that much worse. If they go other way, with better optics and bigger sensors (think SLR), they make an easier target. Physics is your friend in this theoretical battle.