Ohio legislator introduces bill to limit traffic cameras

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COLUMBUS, OH - When Newburgh Heights Police clock speeding cars with hand-held cameras from high atop a hill next to Interstate 77, drivers may not realize they’ve been cited until a ticket arrives in the mail a month later.

In Linndale, officers are invisible to passing traffic as they sit inside a shack while speed cameras click away from the top of a nearby pole.

“What the cameras will do is simply perform as a cash grab,” said Ohio Senator Tom Patton.

Patton has not given up his fight against speed traps, which began a few years ago when he took on Linndale’s infamous spot along Interstate 71.

“We believe that a policeman visible on the road, in his car, will always caution people to address their speed appropriately,” he told Fox8’s Lorrie Taylor.

Patton introduced four pieces of legislation, any one of which, if passed, would make it more difficult for tiny towns and villages to write as many tickets as they currently do.

For instance, Patton’s proposed legislation would prevent local governments from raising more than 30% of their annual revenue through traffic citations.  Three of the proposed laws would speak directly to Linndale’s approach to enforcement; one would prevent communities with fewer than 200 residents from ever issuing traffic camera tickets.  Linndale has about 179 residents.  If that didn’t pass, another would limit speed cam tickets to no more than twice the number of residents, which would limit Linndale’s citations to roughly 358 versus the thousands it currently writes.  If all those failed, the last would prohibit communities without EMS and Fire Departments from using speed cameras.

Senator Patton said he had nothing against communities enforcing traffic laws; he said he did have a problem with municipalities writing tickets that appear to be for reasons other than safety.

“The idea of a guy sitting in a guard shack, it’s an insult to the very policemen who I have deep respect and reverence for,” said the Senator.

Patton told Taylor traffic enforcement should be about safety; a position with which Newburgh Heights Mayor Trevor Elkins said he agreed.  Elkins insisted that’s what his officers promote when they take up positions not visible to passing traffic. 

“This is a much safer process, it does impact driving patterns,” said Elkins, “If you don’t know where that camera is or that officer is in the future, what are you gonna do? You’re going to maintain a reasonable speed all the time.”

Newburgh Heights resident Blake Garra said he appreciated everyone’s focus on safety, but said he’s not so sure there’s anything wrong with boosting the local economy at the same time.

“There’s no real income here, like there used to be, the factories aren’t here,” Garra told Taylor.

Attempts to reach Linndale’s mayor were unsuccessful.

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