The FOX 8 I-Team has uncovered the secrets you’ve never heard before behind those traffic cameras that give you tickets. And what we’ve found shows why drivers like you may be getting even more tickets.
Many local towns have contracts with private traffic camera companies, and both the community and company make money from the fines generated by tickets. But we’ve learned some communities get extra payments from the camera companies, and that money can help police go out to write more tickets.
Police use the cameras to clock speeds, snap pictures, and send drivers tickets and fines in the mail.
In Weathersfield Township, Trumbull County, a speed camera company signed a contract giving that community 68% of each speed camera ticket fine. Plus, money for police to work overtime. Then, the I-Team found the company also later agreed to give Weathersfield Township a “donation” of $6600 every month. A “gift” toward the salary and benefits of a police clerk and police overtime.
Weathersfield Township leaders refused to answer questions on camera, even forcing I-Team cameras to leave a town hall office.
Officials did talk to reporters off camera. The police chief says the township gift is up to $6600 a month and speed cameras are used for safety.
You should also know, when we first requested the speed camera contract there, the township didn’t give us the part about the camera company’s extra payments. The I-Team found that in an amended agreement, and we had to make a special request for that.
We did also ask to interview Weathersfield Trustee H. Gilson Blair on camera, however, instead he sent a written statement along with reports from the Governors Highway Safety Association and the National Transportation Safety Board.
"You have received a copy of our contract ... and have raised questions with regard to the monthly donations that are made to the township," Blair wrote in the letter. "This money is used to fund Police Department wages for officers that have operated the camera and the police clerk for processing tickets. The amount is in addition to the percentage outlined in the contract. This program is akin to the programs offered by state and federal government for OVI, traffic saturation programs , and manpower. "
The letter further notes that the donations help ensure there is no reduction in staffing.
"This enables the department to continue to police and protect the residents of Weathersfield Township while increasing enforcement in those other areas," the letter states.
Blair also told the I-Team during a phone conversation that township residents like the program and they have not received complaints.
According to photo speed revenue reports sent to the I-Team by the township's attorney, Weathersfield received $37, 574 in July, $52,078 in August, $51,842 in September, $69,721 in October, $94,049 in November, and $53,214 in December.
The I-Team didn't stop there. We requested contracts between speed camera companies and seven other towns in Northeast Ohio, including Linndale, Howland Township, Girard, Newburgh Heights, and Monroeville Village in Huron County.
We did not find any others getting a monthly donation or gift. But we did find speed camera companies paying for overtime in other towns where police officers operate the speed cameras. Among them the Summit County town of Norton.
Norton made headlines last year with speed cameras on a stretch of I-76 around a construction zone. In short period of time, more than 9,300 drivers in Norton got hit with tickets and more than $1.8 million in fines.
A camera company paid Norton 60% of the revenue from camera tickets plus money for police to work overtime to operate those cameras.
When the I-Team went to Norton, we were told the police chief and other administrators were in meetings. The town, last year, finally put a hold on issuing speed camera tickets, but hours after our visit, an official there called to say Norton is still considering whether or not to start issuing speed camera tickets again in the spring.
State Senator Sean O'Brien, D-32nd District, says he has questions about Weathersfield's contract.
"The concern is how far is too far? How much is too much and the means to get that?" O'Brien said.
State Representative Bill Seitz , R- Cincinnati, says he,too, questions speed camera contracts.
"It's really an indirect form of bribe, is what it is," Seitz said. "It is what I call policing for profit."
Seitz says he wants to pass a law to ban all speed cameras in Ohio.
And several people we talked to who received tickets from these cameras also would like the cameras to be removed.
Including Roy Zierkle, who received one from Norton, a few months ago.
"I think it's a big scam that went on there," Zierkle said. "City of Norton getting rich off of us. Shouldn't be."
**Here is a look at what some other communities received from the speed cameras:
- Howland Township received $623,608 in reimbursement money and overtime from March 1, 2018 until January 1, 2019.
- Monroeville collected $142,518 in fines in 2018.
- Liberty Township collected about $72,000 in 2016 and 2017.