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No More Cameras In Cleveland

This past November, voters in Cleveland gave traffic enforcement cameras the boot by over a three-to-one margin.

Issue 35 amended the city charter to include language that "the City shall not use any traffic law photo-monitoring device for the enforcement of a qualified traffic law violation." That means no speeding cameras and no red-light cameras. Revenue from photo-enforcement citations accounted for about 1 percent of the City's budget, or $6 million a year. The citations stopped immediately while the city negotiated with Xerox, the camera vendor, for their removal.

Voters in Maple Heights, a suburb with about 23,000 residents, took similar action.

Speeding Enforcement Cameras

Photo speed limit enforcement generally works a bit differently from the red-light cameras in Bakersfield. A Camera at Point 1 takes a picture of a drivers' license plate and a camera at Point 2, which is maybe a half-mile down the road, does the same thing. Bother the photos are time-stamped. A computer calculates the amount of time it takes to pass from Point 1 to Point 2 at 55mph, or whatever the posted speed limit is on that stretch of road. Assume that it's 30 seconds. If Camera 1 takes your picture at 12:00:00 and you pass Camera 2 at 12:00:20, you get a speeding ticket in the mail.

Since these devices obviate the need for a live officer, proponents say speeding enforcement cameras make more police manpower available for other tasks. There is also some evidence that unmanned devices make drivers slow down.

But there are some problems. Although the cameras did not produce much money in Cleveland, the revenue vs. safety debate has been well chronicled, in this space and others. Speeders may also see the cameras and slam on their brakes, thereby creating a hazard for other drivers. Perhaps most importantly, cameras cannot give warnings, so everyone gets a ticket regardless of the circumstances.