NORTON, Ohio - The Norton City Council recently voted to equip police officers with photo-enforcement cameras to try and slow traffic down through a construction zone on Interstate-76. However, they underestimated the size of the problem and the number of citations they'd be issuing.
The cameras have been in use for less than a month and officials admit they underestimated how bad the problem was.
The number of crashes through the construction zone between Barberton and Norton had more than doubled in just one years time, police said.
Each crash in that particular zone reportedly severely ties up traffic and emergency resources. Police said emergency crews even face difficulty just getting to the crash sites.
The objective of the cameras was to slow people down through. The speed limit in that particular zone is 55 mph, and police said the only way to effectively enforce the limit was to issue citations.
In the first two weeks of using the photo-enforcement cameras the numbers of both citations and fines has been staggering.
The cameras are operated for three hours a day, six days a week. Since their installation, more than 3,200 citations were issued to drivers for travelling more than ten miles an hour over the limit.
Because the area monitored by the cameras is a construction zone, the fines are doubled.
The citations issued in just the first two weeks already exceeds a total of $650,000.
Council member at large Charlotte Whipkey said she was in favor of the hand held cameras when they were first proposed, but she is even more in favor of them now.
"I'm all for it due to the fact that we have lost police cars there. I believe it was a sheriff that lost a car there. They have had close calls and I believe a lot of construction people get hurt in those areas," said Whipkey.
Administrative Officer Robert Fowler said even he underestimated the number of tickets that the city might issue, guessing that they would write around 1,000 citations in a month. He never thought they would see three times that in just a few weeks.
Fowler said he understands that there are people who believe the effort is exclusively to generate revenue, but he says that is not the case.
"Its not about money making venture for us because, if it was, we would put people out there 24 hours a day seven days a week," said Fowler.
City Council Member Jack Gainer said with an estimated 70,000 drivers travelling through the stretch daily, the numbers only tell him that there are thousands more who are driving just as recklessly but are not being cited.
"If we had some other way to slow the people down without issuing tickets that cost you money, I don't know how else you do it," said Gainer.
The city said the money from the fines, which could exceed $1 million in just the first month, will be used toward police personnel and equipment.
Fowler said the cameras will be removed once the construction site shuts down for the winter months. He also said the money they generate will help pay for officers to physically patrol the highway during those months to continue to enforce the limits.
"There's one sure way to avoid it go 55 miles an hour and you are not going to get a ticket, and chances are you are not going to kill anybody or yourself," said Gainer.