Exclusive: Elmwood Place chief talks about speed cameras

Exclusive: Elmwood Place Police Chief speaks out

ELMWOOD PLACE, OH (FOX19) - Elmwood Place Village Police Chief William Peskin sat down exclusively with FOX19 to talk about the village's controversial speed camera program.

He argues the survey before the cameras were enforced showed a need for increased speed limit enforcement.

"Basically what is showed was the only time anyone was obeying the law was when I had a police officer sitting underneath the bridge," Peskin said.

Some drivers argue if enforcement is so important, officers should take on the task.

"I don't have the man power to do that. I simply don't," Peskin said. "These cameras allow me to address other public safety needs."

Peskin maintains he did not push for the cameras as a money-raiser.

"I would be naive if I didn't say that probably popped into people's head. Was that my motivating factor? No," Peskin said.

He says if it had been, he would not have taken on the task of moving the police headquarters into Town Hall.

"If I'd have seen it as a cash cow I'd have definitely waited to start this construction," Peskin explained. "Because I could have paid somebody to come in here and do it instead of nights... I'm a salaried officer."

He says the move is aimed at saving money on utilities and says many of the construction materials have been donated.

He says he has tried to be a good steward of taxpayer dollars.

"As a public servant we're scrutinized for everything we do and for good reason," he said.

The most recent audit of Elmwood Place Village is available online on the Ohio Auditor of State's website. The audit was released in September and examines the finances of the village during the 2009-2010 budget periods.

FOX19 uncovered some concerns raised by audit. First, the finding that six out of 40 tickets randomly pulled could not be accounted for from the Mayor's court accounting system.

"I wouldn't know where they would go," Peskin told FOX19. "Now, we've taken multiple steps to try and address any of those issues by having officers fill out a log and then having the clerk of court sign that log as she takes those tickets from our side of the building."

The mayor did not wish to comment during last week's village council meeting. She was not able to be reached at Townhall on Wednesday.

The second concern revolved around $8,000 the audit states came from the sale of forfeited vehicles to a village council member that was put in a separate account. The audit states activities within that account were limited to the Village police chief. That council member later resigned.

"The account was opened because the village cannot get a credit card or open up a Paypal account and there were items I was purchasing online that didn't accept purchase orders," Peskin explained. "Obviously we needed a credit card so the problem was solved with that account. As far as the sale to the council member, he was the highest bidder. We had three other bids."

Peskin admits, however, that no public auction was held. The audit states the account was closed in 2012.

Peskin says going back he would do things differently.

"Oh absolutely, I'm learning every day," Peskin said. "As this goes on of course, yes, I know the people to get in touch with that can walk me through the process instead of me stumbling through it."

At the end of the day, Peskin says there is one key message he wants to get across.

"Public safety," Peskin said. "The long and short of it is if you're not speeding you won't get a ticket."

Peskin believes the tide of public opinion is already turning when it comes to the cameras.

"The protestors that were here, none of them were my residents," Peskin told FOX19. "They were all from out of town. My residents want these cameras. Ultimately that's who I'm serving."

So far Peskin says over 6,600 citations have been mailed out. He says roughly 400 appeals have come in. The village receives weekly deposits from citation fees and so far $17,000 has come in from the enforcement effort.

Chief William Peskin says the police department has 60 days from the citation due dates to schedule an administrative hearing for drivers to appeal their tickets in front of a magistrate. Peskin says the process with be handled outside of the Mayor's Court since the citations are a civil matter. He says the village is currently looking into hiring another magistrate to handle the appeals.

The chief says only six officers are authorized to review the tickets including all supervisors and some patrolmen. He says all authorized officers went through training on the citation process. Peskin says officers must verify every license plate matches the make and model of the vehicle shown in the citation through a computerized process.

Peskin says drivers who received multiple tickets between Sept. 15 and Sept. 30 are only required to pay two tickets. Drivers must call the customer service line to verify that they are eligible for the two ticket maximum. Peskin says drivers should be aware there is a four day lag in the citation recording process.

Peskin says all of his officers work part time and are unpaid for the first two shifts they work every month.

Chief Peskin says Elmwood residents have requested the units be placed on other streets in the village. He says they are looking into adding a variation of the 'speed camera' unit on Vine to address speeding concerns on residential streets.

Because there is no guarantee how much money the citation will generate every month, Peskin says the department is unable to plan their budget around the revenue. He says the money is direct deposited by Optotraffic straight into the village's General Fund.

The Chief says, according to Optotraffic, speeding incidents have dropped by 25 percent in the village since the units were installed. The speed limit is 25 miles an hour throughout the village with the exception of the 20 mile per hour zone on Vine Street from 7:30 a.m. to 3:40 p.m. on school days.

While the chief maintains the decision to employ the 'speed cameras' is based on public safety concerns, he acknowledges law enforcement comes at a cost.

"Public safety is not free. Who should pay for that; violators of the law or people obeying the law?" questioned Peskin.

According to the Governors Highway Safety Association website there are 117 communities across the country using speed cameras.

GHSA says 12 states have passed laws that prohibit speed cameras, with few exceptions. Twenty nine states have no law addressing the cameras. All other states either allow the cameras or limit their use by location or other criteria. Their website states "13 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands have speed cameras currently operating in at least one location".

GHSA says Illinois, Maryland and Washington also use speed cameras statewide in work zones.

GHSA references a 2005 Report on the National Forum on Speeding which it says "advocates for speed camera programs when they are in place for safety and not for revenue purposes and when they are in areas with demonstrated need and public support."

The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety website states the following Ohio communities employ speed cameras: Akron, Ashtabula, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, East Cleveland, Hamilton, Northwood, Parma, Toledo, Trotwood, and West Carrollton. New Miami is also employing the units for enforcement as of Oct. 1. Chief Peskin says he has also received multiple inquiries from area municipalities interested in learning more about their program.

Tim Ayers, spokesperson for Optotraffic says the company has been around since 2006. Optotraffic laser traffic monitoring technology, LIDAR, is currently in place in a number of communities in Maryland. Elmwood Place is the first Ohio community to install the units.

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