Law Enforcement Pushes Back on Potential Traffic Camera Ban

In probably one of the more *surprising* headlines of the year thus far, The PD's Rex Santus' Ohio Statehouse story this week is christened with this tidy summation: "Ohio traffic camera ban is a bad idea, police say."

Indeed, as a bill aimed at banning those traffic-monitoring cameras works its way through committee, law enforcement officials are stepping in to tamp down such nonsense. Presently, the cameras catch drivers who exceed the speed limit and run red lights. They also reel in a pretty penny each year ($6 million to $8 million annually over the past few years; about $47 million in total).

Traffic enforcement cameras arrived in Cleveland in 2005, and the program has been expanding steadily since. For reference, WKYC assembled a terrific map of the city's traffic camera locations earlier this year.

What ends up happening is a camera will snap a photo of a car once it passes the speed limit or runs through a red light. That photo is processed by Xerox, which sends the data back to law enforcement. Officers decided which drivers get cited and which drivers get off freely. At that point, there's little more than a 50 percent chance that officer will approve the citation, lending the whole program an air of doubt. The human element of judiciousness and discretion is removed from the equation entirely, leaving a guilty-until-proven-innocent structure in place.

The bill arrived at the Statehouse steps as an inherent clash between judicial and executive power. Judges throughout Ohio have ordered the cameras be shut down, but law enforcement officials continue making appeals just as often.

Discussion is set to continue in the House Transportation, Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee.

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Eric Sandy

Eric Sandy is an award-winning Cleveland-based journalist. For a while, he was the managing editor of Scene. He now contributes jam band features every now and then.
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