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Thursday, Mar 05, 2015

County still seeking removal of red-light cameras


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The county is moving forward with plans to disable the city of Brooksville’s two red-light cameras on county-owned property and the matter is in the hands of the legal office.

County attorneys were given the directive three months ago to find a legal way to remove the cameras at U.S. 41 and Wiscon Road and Cobb Road and Jefferson Street.

County Attorney Garth Coller declined to comment on the progress because the matter may end up in litigation.

County Commissioner Jim Adkins, leading the charge on the camera removal, said the process may be lengthy and called it similar to getting a tenant evicted from a home. It takes time and the necessary legalities must be addressed to prevent future problems.

Adkins broached the idea back in February and the cameras remain functional, to the commissioner’s chagrin.

“They just need to do away with them and be done with them,” Adkins said Wednesday.

Adkins said cameras strip motorists of a basic right to argue their case with Florida Highway Patrol or whichever law enforcement agency pulls them over.

“If I’m going to get a ticket, I want to be able to talk with someone right there at the time I get pulled over so we can discuss the matter,” Adkins said. “I may still get my ticket but at least I will have the chance to voice my opinion to my accuser, in a civil manner.”

Adkins said he is convinced that legislators are more interested in money generated from violations.

“It’s not about safety, it’s about revenue, Adkins said.

In April, there were 1,481 paid citations from red-light camera violators. Of the $233,998 in revenue, $122,923 went to the state, $55,537 to the city of Brooksville and $55,537 to Sensys America, the camera company.

Proponents of red-light cameras, now being used in 24 states, say it will cut down on traffic violators and is a boon to law enforcement.

Brooksville Police Chief George Turner said the battle of the cameras is being waged between attorneys and he is simply enforcing the law.

The cameras remain up and violators will be issued tickets, he said.

Turner said statistics show the number of traffic accidents is down wherever cameras are employed and Brooksville is no exception. In 2009-10, the first year of usage, total crashes were down 35 percent, he said.

There are eight intersections and 16 cameras employed within city limits, including the two on county-owned property.

Not all crashes occurred at an intersection where a camera was present which suggests that their presence raises awareness of safe driving within city limits, Turner added.

“I think as a citizen, I’m supportive of red light enforcement whether it be by police officer or red-light camera,” Turner said. “I guess the easiest way not to get a ticket is to follow the law.”

Turner said there is much misinformation about red-light cameras, including criticism that law enforcement is somehow manipulating the cameras to trick drivers.

That is not so, Turner said.

Critics say they are only used to prop up government budgets and are a money grab. Cameras, they said, will not deter motorists from running red lights.

The National Motorists Association, in a press release, said the cameras may actually make roads less safe.

“A picture may be worth a thousand words, but it may also take a thousand words to explain what the picture really means,” the NMA said. “Even in those rare instances where a law enforcement officer is overseeing a ticket camera, it is highly unlikely that the officer would recall the supposed violation.”

For all practical purposes, there is no “accuser” for motorists to confront, which is a constitutional right, according to the NMA.

“There is no one that can personally testify to the circumstances of the alleged violation, and just because a camera unit was operating properly when it was set up does not mean it was operating properly when the picture was taken of any given vehicle,” it said.

Turner also commented on Judge Donald Scaglione’s announcement this week he would throw out any violations caught on camera of motorists not making a complete stop when making right turns at red lights.

Scaglione cited the vagueness of the state law in determining the “right-on-red” law.

Turner said he would follow the existing law that requires motorists to make a complete stop before turning right and cited a recent case where a mother and child were hit when a driver failed to follow that law.

Both were uninjured.

(352) 544-5290

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