Controversial speed cameras outrage drivers

Controversial speed cameras outrage drivers in Elmwood Place
Published: Oct. 3, 2012 at 9:20 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 3, 2012 at 11:57 PM EDT
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ELMWOOD PLACE, OH (FOX19) - The Village of Elmwood Place launched an Automated Speed Enforcement Program on Sept. 1.

One 'speed camera' was placed in a school zone on Vine Street and the other was placed in a residential neighborhood. "Both locations have serious speeding problems," said Village Police Chief William Peskin. "This was confirmed during our survey period when more than 20,000 speed violations were recorded in just two weeks. In some cases, drivers were traveling at more than twice the posted speed limit." Authorities say the deployments fully comply with all state laws and local ordinances.

"The reason we are using speed cameras is very clear. If you hit a child going 20 miles per hour, the chance of survival is 95 percent; at 30 mph survivability falls to 65 percent; and at 40 mph there is only a 15 percent chance the child will live. We have clocked drivers going more than 50 mph in front of our elementary school and through residential neighborhoods," said Peskin.

The Chief says there are not enough police officers to provide the range of coverage that an automated system provides. Violators will be issued Notices of Liability with a fine of $105. Collected fines will go towards public safety in the Village of Elmwood Place, according to authorities.

Tim Ayers, spokesperson for Optotraffic told FOX19 if drivers fail to pay the fine and subsequent late fees, drivers will ultimately be turned over to collection agencies.

"They're just trying to make money is all they're doing," said Tina White with ticket in hand.

White does not buy the village safety argument.

"Let's start with all the safety," White suggested. "Like my kids can't walk the streets around here."

Lisa Poe stood on Vine Street with six tickets in hand Wednesday, each showing her driving between 25 and 29 miles an hour in the school zone.

"Anger, hurt, sadness," she said of her reaction to the $630 fines she's facing. "Christmas ain't gonna look all that great anyway, but at least there was one," she said. "With this is doesn't even look like there's going to be one."

Poe says with a warning she could have avoided five of the tickets.

"If it would have been a police officer I would have only gotten one," she said. "'Cause I would have known better."

Even drivers who have not been cited were outraged. "If they want to catch somebody speeding they should get out here and do their job," said Anthony Ruff.

Ayers says Optotraffic supplies the equipment that registers speed and supplies the photos and also handles bookkeeping of ticket payments. Ultimately, however, Ayers says it is up to a sworn officer to issue the citation.

Businesses along Vine Street say they have seen a loss of business.

"Make no mistake. This is about raising money. It's a shakedown of people that happen to be driving through the village. It's something that's of questionable constitutionality," said FOX19 legal analyst Mike Allen.

Allen's greatest concern is drivers' right to due process is being infringed upon. "I think they  presume that people that are driving through there that are clocked ... are guilty and you're supposed to be presumed innocent," he said.

"There's no getting around it, the principal drive behind this is to generate income. We're financially in very bad shape," admitted Jerald Robertson, who was one of six village members who voted unanimously in July to put the new speed monitoring system in place.

He says the cameras simply help uphold the law at a time when village resources are strapped. "Somehow or another people are not really considering that aspect: that the law is being broken," Robertson said.

He says he has been surprised by the community's reaction. "There's nothing new in this. This has been going on forever in the state of Ohio; small communities, in order to have money for their police departments, write tickets," said Robertson.

Robertson says businesses have called and threatened to leave town over the issue. With options limited, Robertson says he would be in favor of incorporating the village into a neighboring village like St. Bernard. "I think financially we're no longer viable as a community when you really look at the numbers, but again we're actually a liability. I mean, who would want to absorb us when we'd be an expense?"

Ayers says every morning the devices go through a series of tests sent wirelessly to a control center to monitor proper calibration of the laser used to track speeds.

Elmwood Place Village is the first location in Ohio to place Optotraffic devices on its streets. New Miami police confirm they are also utilizing the devices which have been enforcing speed zones since Monday.

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