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Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

The Press Newspaper

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        Oregon’s Safety Committee recently rejected a proposal to implement a hand-held speed camera program for the police department.

        Councilman Tim Zale, chairman of the safety committee, said Blue Line Solutions, which operates the program, approached city officials.

        “They wanted to meet me and City Administrator Mike Beazley to present their program to us,” said Zale. “I felt obligated to present it to council and the police department. I didn’t necessarily agree with it. We had a safety committee meeting on it. No one was in favor of it. I’m fine with that.”

        The Toledo Police Department has a hand-held camera program.

        “It’s kind of a neat program, but Toledo kind of ruined it for everyone,” he said. Police are supposed to be visible to motorists when using the device. But Toledo has come under fire with allegations they are hiding when using the camera.

        “There are officers hiding, giving people multiple tickets in a week when they never saw a police car. It’s really not an excuse because if you’re speeding, you’re speeding. But I get it,” he said.

        In addition, Zale said the city doesn’t need the program because there are few areas with speeding issues.

        “I don’t know if there are areas in the city that are so difficult for us to do speed enforcement without a tool like this,” said Zale. “I know there are very busy parts on Navarre Avenue and very busy parts on Woodville Road. Sometimes it’s extremely difficult for police to get violators without risking their own necks or anybody else on those roads. That’s the advantage of this.”         

 

Money grab

        He also doesn’t want to give the public the perception that “this is nothing but a money grab.”

        Last year, the program in Toledo generated nearly $2.5 million in revenue.

        “It’s really never designed to be a money grab,” said Zale. “But it’s hard to stop. Because if you use this in a certain area, and an officer is going to be running his camera, just clicking off people violating at the speed parameter that we set, of course there would be multiple tickets versus one, two or three that he would normally do in a certain area. We don’t need the money, so we don’t need to do that. There were some pluses. But I favored the minuses. The vote was unanimous against the proposal.”

        Among the advantages: “It was at zero cost to us. It wouldn’t have cost the city one penny to have this program. They would have even covered the hours that the officer would be using their hand held gun. So it was at zero cost, and we would have gotten 60 percent of the proceeds,” he said.

        Zale was most opposed to the way Toledo has used it, he said, in a manner that was not visible to the motorist.

        “Toledo ruined it for other communities. People in Toledo are up in arms about the way Toledo Police have used the camera, hiding, with motorists not seeing a police car out in the open. You need to see the police car to think, “Uh oh. They’re running radar here.”’

        In the end, the program just wasn’t needed, he said.

        “From my experience, I don’t think things have changed that much in the streets in Oregon. We have been able to handle speed enforcement without having that kind of thing.”

       

Northwood

        The use of speed and red light cameras to catch motorists speeding or running red lights did not go over well in the City of Northwood, either. In 2005, Northwood approved a contract with Redflex Traffic Systems, Inc., to install and operate automated photo speed and red light enforcement cameras at the intersections of Woodville and Lemoyne roads, and Wales and Oregon roads.

        The city and Redflex shared a percentage of the revenue from traffic citations issued as a result of the cameras, which had caught thousands of motorists speeding or going through red lights. Fines were $110. Supporters, like the police chief, said the cameras improved safety at those intersections. He had backed it up with statistics that showed there were fewer fatal accidents at those locations.

        But in 2013, Northwood City Council voted against renewing the contract with Redflex.

        Some on council were opposed because they said the city had started relying on the revenue to pay for non-safety projects, like a new salt dome. Others said motorists were avoiding the intersections, which in turn hurt business.

        As a result, the program ended and the cameras were removed.

       

Appeal process

        Oregon Police Chief Mike Navarre said at the Oregon Safety Committee meeting he doesn’t like speed enforcement cameras “for a lot of reasons.”

        “I think it discriminates against people who abide by the law and put plates on their cars,” he said. The speed enforcement camera takes a photo of the license plate at the front of the vehicle. “We have states that border Ohio that don’t require front plates, so they pretty much get a free pass”

        He said he also didn’t like the motorists’ appeals process because the violation is difficult to contest.

        “I don’t like the appeal process with high speed enforcement. Toledo is way behind. The notices are mailed out a month after the violation,” he said, with few able to remember what they were doing on that date. Motorists might be shown a video of the violation, but they can’t tell whether or not they were exceeding the speed limit, he added.

        Navarre, however, said he supports the use of red light cameras, which takes photos of motorists going through red lights.

        When he became chief in Oregon in 2012, he said he approached the administration about the potential use of red light cameras on Navarre Avenue due to bad accidents at some of the intersections.

        “I didn’t get a very warm reception back then. I was told `We don’t need that yet.’ So I let it go. I’m a big fan of red light cameras. I think the data is proven. They reduce accidents, injuries, and fatalities. But speed cameras, I don’t see data that supports them. It’s a revenue grab for cities all over the country.”

        Since safety improvements were recently completed on Navarre Avenue, from I-280 to Isaac Streets Drive, the accident rate on that stretch of Navarare has dropped, said City Administrator Mike Beazley.

        “We used to get at least eight accidents per month. Since the improvements, it’s now yielding one accident per month,” he said.

       

       

 

 

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