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POLL: Should Salem Have Red Light Cameras?

Council will consider installing the cameras to catch red light runners on March 21.

Salem appears to be moving toward installing red light cameras, or as they are officially known — traffic control signal violation monitoring systems.

The cameras, once installed, shoot a photo of a license plate on a vehicle that runs a red light. The city then sends that vehicle's driver a moving violation ticket.

The City Council will hold its first meeting on the proposal to install the cameras at 6:30 p.m. on March 21 at . The initiative, prompted by a request from Mayor Kimberley Driscoll, was referred to the Committee on Public Health, Safety and the Environment, headed by Ward 6 Councilor Paul Prevey, who said he had not reached an opinion on the proposal.

But the issue is controversial enough that the whole council will consider whether to put the cameras in.

Installing the cameras at key intersections has the strong backing of Police Chief Paul Tucker, who believes the cameras will help drivers obey the traffic signals, city councilors said.

Under the proposal before the council, the camera system would be self-funding. Revenues collected from violators are expected to cover the cost of the cameras.

It is not the first time that the camera issue has come up in Salem. Ward 2 Councilor Michael Sosnowski has introduced similar measures several times in the past.

If the council approves installing the new cameras, the city must ask the state legislature to approve it.

Red light cameras have been around since the 1960s. Developed in the Netherlands, the cameras got serious attention in the U.S. after a well-publicized wreck in the 1980s in New York City when a driver ran a red light and hit an 18-month-old girl in a stroller.

But the cameras have proved controversial, with critics questioning whether they actually cause accidents when drivers stop abruptly at lights. Data from the Federal Highway Administration shows that red light cameras decrease side-impact collisions by 25 percent, but may cause a 15 percent increase in the number of rear-impact crashes.

Seven states have banned the cameras.

The Massachusetts chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union questions whether the red-light cameras also violate due process and privacy issues for vehicle owners.

The registered owners or lessees of the vehicles that are caught running the red lights are liable for the violation unless they can prove that another person was driving the vehicle. “Guilt is presumed over innocence,” the ACLU said.

The group is also concerned about violations of privacy. It was not worried about cameras taking photos of license plates, but rather how long the data is stored and the possibly that law enforcement might use the data for other purposes, including tracking a driver's location at a specific moment.

The images, the ACLU said, should be destroyed as soon as possible.

bogey251 March 08, 2012 at 05:37 PM
No. More rear end accidents would result as people jam on brakes when the light turns yellow.
Chris March 08, 2012 at 07:22 PM
Programming a machine to enforce the law and issue tickets is a really bad idea.
john March 08, 2012 at 07:41 PM
The state uses cameras to monitor the use of transponders on tolls and they get an amazing picture of your plate along with date,time and place as well as the reason for the violation. This would be much different because you really need a picture of the plate and light in the same picture to prove the violation. Like others have said I don't think a mechanical device of any kind should replace the human eye in this type of situation but they will do what they want.
Jared Robinson March 08, 2012 at 07:44 PM
Hasn't the city ever seen Robocop? ED-209 didn't work, you still need a human involved :D
john March 08, 2012 at 08:01 PM
In downtown Salem traffic backs up all over the city everyday. When emergency vehicles approach intersections that are blocked MANY times the only solution is for people to run the light to allow the emergency vehicle through. How will the camera know the difference? It would be possible for people to get a ticket for not (running the light) getting out of the way of an emergency vehicle. Very bad idea!
Anita Armell March 08, 2012 at 10:10 PM
Cameras on red...YES. I lived in Europe where these are a plus to everyone. The camera light is triggered by the red light turning on. Good Luck!
Me March 08, 2012 at 10:24 PM
Then I guess, Anita, you're familiar with the way the Europeans have solved their $camera problem with old tires and gasoline. http://www.speedcam.co.uk/gatso2.htm
michael beaulieu March 08, 2012 at 11:26 PM
To klassy salem Why pay overtime to do their job
Driving In Salem March 09, 2012 at 01:56 PM
Salem Police have proved ineffective in traffic enforcement - it's not their failing alone; courts play a huge role. Whether running a red light, stop sign, making an illegal turn or speeding, any Salem cop will tell you violators lay on the sob story (often "everybody else does it") & judges frequently let them off. Hardly encourages bad driving habits to change & doesn't motivate police to enforce. Putting more cops on isn't a solution. Goal is for bad drivers to start following law. Simplest solution would be for these idiots to obey the law. Drives slamming breaks at yellow lights are not driving properly in the 1st place. Culture of driving & enforcement in this town is broken & it's time to do something else. Hitting derelicts in the pocketbook is best way to improve. People positing wild theories about camera making mistakes; cameras take 2 pictures, 1st as light turns red & 2nd seconds later. Photos show line at intersection & light. If your car has already entered intersection at time of 1st photo, no ticket! If you have not entered intersection in 1st photo, but have in 2nd, ticket. Emergency vehicles would be in pics as well, which would give you a pass. If you don't break law, you have nothing to fear. Camera lights proven effective worldwide - proof is in pictures. They allow cops spend time on other issues (not that they are dealing with this in 1st place), are on location & working 24-7, are fixed cost & generate $$. Stop whining.
john March 09, 2012 at 03:22 PM
You make it sound like everyone that gets a ticket goes to court to fight it. I think most just pay the fine. You also say everything is in the picture. 15 cars in a line stopped at a red light. Police car comes and has no place to go so the first car runs the light so the rest have room to pull over. You would need a film crew to get all that. The people that go to court are the ones who have the conection and get assured the cop won't show up.
Me March 09, 2012 at 03:33 PM
I foresee and increasing number of people simply ignoring the $camera's mailed revenue demand when they realize how unenforceable they are.
Driving In Salem March 09, 2012 at 03:41 PM
You're projecting, that's not what I said at all (everyone goes to court to fight tickets). What I said is that Salem Police have told me directly that Judges are soft on traffic violations, and I should've added that this is even when Cops ARE IN THE ROOM. I know a lot of people that have gone to court (with no connections, sometime from out of town) and have gotten the case dismissed with no fine or mark on record. Who has been assured the cop won't show up? If that's happened, I've never heard or seen evidence of it. And even if that's the case, it's an argument for the cameras, which do not lie. Again, you're trying hard to come up with a wild scenario that has little bearing on reality. Think about it for a second - even if a cop car forced the kind of action you are describing and somehow wasn't in either picture (and keep in mind there are video cameras in some intersections as well), the Police vet the tickets and would be aware of their routes and responses to emergencies, all of which would be on record at the police station.
Driving In Salem March 09, 2012 at 03:45 PM
It may be hard to collect on a ticket, but good luck renewing your license, getting a sticker, or even insurance if you have outstanding tickets. It will catch up to the violators eventually.
KlassySalem March 09, 2012 at 03:55 PM
Already happening in LA. http://articles.latimes.com/2011/jul/27/local/la-me-0727-red-light-cameras-20110727
KlassySalem March 09, 2012 at 03:58 PM
So, why do you think a judge is MORE likely to enforce a camera fine? Aren't they even less likely? The police vetting every ticket against records of where police cars were at the moment that a ticket was issued is a far more wild scenario. Such logs don't even exist.
Me March 09, 2012 at 03:59 PM
Strange, none of that seems to have happened in other jurisdictions that have tried this $cam. Check out what has happened in Houston and Los Angeles just to name two jurisdictions. Could that be because these $camera generated revenue demands are not really 'tickets' in the legal sense of the word and thus do not enjoy the same enforcement sanctions in spite of what the $camera shills threaten?
KlassySalem March 09, 2012 at 04:17 PM
"Drives slamming breaks at yellow lights are not driving properly in the 1st place." Tell that to your insurance company after you rear end one, and they collect your deductible and raise your rates. "Camera lights proven effective worldwide - proof is in pictures." Effective in increasing accidents, maybe. If they've proven effective worldwide, why are so many municipalities spending so much money to remove them?
Driving In Salem March 09, 2012 at 05:14 PM
Unenforceable in LA, where a loophole in the language of local law is being exploited. That's fixable at a Gov't level in CA, BTW. This is Salem, not LA - try to keep that in mind. I would hope that the local Salem & MA government would make sure the tickets were enforceable, BEFORE investing in the lights. Article does nothing to illustrate an argument against TLCs, but shows exactly how violators will acknowledge their guilt, ignore their responsibility and take advantage of any possible excuse to "absolve" themselves. That's the unfortunate mindset of many drivers in Salem already and needs to be changed.
Driving In Salem March 09, 2012 at 05:23 PM
There's no way to know if this will change the judges behavior, either way. But today, in a court where the ticketing officer may or may not be present, running a red light is still a he said/she said. Judges can get away with lax judgements in these cases because there's no hard evidence. With a photo, there's hard evidence, and mollycoddling by judges is obvious. Judges are under fire in MA for being too easy on driving offenses, I think this forces them to back off that habit. I can see how what I typed may be misconstrued, so to clarify, Police logs do report responses to emergencies that create scenarios like the one John envisions. So while the actual route may not be immediately apparent, the scenario is relatively easy to reconstruct.
john March 09, 2012 at 05:26 PM
If you don't think people get tickets fixed every day your wrong. I know people that have done it. Elderly man passes a school bus while students are getting off, the son knows a cop and no one shows up in the court room.That's a real story. You can even have cops from other towns help help you by reaching out to a cop in the town where the violation occured. Go to Wash and New Derby from 2-3 and tell me you can't get screwed by cameras.Then again,I guess if the judges are soft wiyh the cop in the court they will never uphold a ticket by camera,Right? The reality you speak of is that you are dead wrong that everyone goes to court to fight tickets. That's nonsense.
Driving In Salem March 09, 2012 at 05:34 PM
Griping about insurance company policy is deflecting - that's another issue entirely. Maybe some places are removing TLCs. But lots of other places are not - they've worked all over Europe and even NYC, where traffic issues make the ones in Salem look like nothing. Every place is different, which is why examples like Greensboro, NC are ridiculous - it's like comparing a tank to a tricycle - yes, they both have wheels, but that's about where it ends. I'd rather see the city try SOMETHING than keep their heads buried in the sand as they have for the past 20 years while bad drivers make us all unsafe. There are no other solutions presented here that have anywhere near the efficiency and impact that TLCs would. Putting more cops on overtime is so obviously NOT the solution, I can't believe it's even been suggested.
Me March 09, 2012 at 05:53 PM
LOL! Salem ain't South Africa. There's only so much that can be done with this $cam to make it enforceable and all of those changes have a strong tendency to push the $cammers in a direction they don't want to go. They don't want the burden of proof that necessarily comes with criminal enforcement as that would be an impossible standard for them the meet thus killing their profits (which is what this $cam is all about). Thus they want to keep their revenue claim at the civil level but they don't even want to have to pursue their claim by suing in a civil court. They want to use 'administrative hearings'. Were they required to follow criminal, or even civil procedure, you'd see them close up shop. They can't afford it. That's why they ignore people who ignore their claims.
KlassySalem March 09, 2012 at 06:19 PM
Define "worked." They haven't stopped the violators, and haven't reduced accidents. They don't catch speeders. They don't catch people doing anything where they aren't present, and they don't move. How is that efficient, or impactful? It couldn't be more passive. In MA, the cam fines are limited, and they don't add any points to your license. Impact? How different is Swampscott, from Salem? In your Greensboro analogy, we're the tricycle. There is no maybe about it. Houston removed. LA removed. The state of New Mexico removed after finding they had no effect on safety. Atlanta has removed cameras, Salem OR was ordered by the state to remove theirs after accidents went up 77% after their installation. Peoria, AZ removed theirs after accidents increased. Colorado Springs removed theirs after finding that it took 2.5 full time officers (cost of $200,000) to review the results, and moved to saturation patrols and high visibility enforcement. That's impact. So again, define worked. Want to make intersections safer? Lengthen yellows. That actually "works." I have no problem with enforcement. I'm happy to have it, but it has to work.
Driving In Salem March 09, 2012 at 09:02 PM
Plenty of studies show that accidents are reduced overall when TLCs are installed, & even those showing increases in rear collisions show the overall decrease in other types of accidents more than makes up for it in reduced injuries, damage & fatalities. Rear collisions by & large cause less injury & fatalities than other accidents. Studies further show that in addition to decreases in red light running @ camera-equipped sites, the effect carried over to signalized intersections NOT equipped with RLCs, indicating COMMUNITY-WIDE CHANGES IN DRIVER BEHAVIOR. Is that a good definition of "worked"? Try to stop looking at every example as an analog to Salem. The Greensboro analogy fails because you take one set of conditions & assume everything follows, which is as myopic & unscientific as it gets. City layout is a huge factor, as is the volume of traffic, local driver habits, history of enforcement, local laws, availability & effectiveness of on-the-ground human policemen, availability of other types of roadways (In Greensboro, two highways serve the city, taking much traffic off city streets proper). Almost all of Salem is residential by comparison. These (& others) are factors to consider. Swampscott may be a "better" analog, but many disclaimers in their study render it toothless & "Swampscott didn't do it" is not a reasoned response. There are no laws on the books in MA regarding Cams that I can find, so unless I'm missing them, the limits are yet to be written.
john March 09, 2012 at 09:07 PM
You win !!! You bored me to death.
Cwheels March 09, 2012 at 09:38 PM
Driving in Salem, Does your company Install and operate these cameras or does the city run them?
Edward March 10, 2012 at 02:40 PM
No they can't. Moving violation tickets must be handed to the driver, per state law. Several years back, Boston Police cadets wrote up tickets on drivers for infractions like not letting a person go across the crosswalk and other violations. All those tickets were mailed. Once those tickets were brought into court with proof that they were mailed, they were all dismissed.
Dan H March 10, 2012 at 02:50 PM
I completely agree with you. This town has become a crazy zoo driving around here. People do not care about pedestrian crossing lights, nor do they yield when turning on a green light, especially at Lafayette and Derby. It is a drag race to see who can get bye first. The police are not interested in policing traffic violations, they rather sit on the side of the road with the new camera that takes a picture of your license plate and see if it is current and that it is not expired. But no one seems too concerned about that camera. The police drive around in parking lots and anywhere cars are parked looking for expired plates and if they find one they wait for the driver then impound the car. This town needs the cameras to stop people running lights. I have been almost hit quite a few times from people spacing out and blowing thru red lights. If people think that these will cause accidents from people slamming on their brakes at yellow lights then drive safer and pay attention, get off the phone and drive, keep a safe distance from the car in front of you...do we have to refresh those driving safety tips again?? We would not need cameras if people would drive the right way and obey traffic laws and a good way for that would be for people to go back to school and learn to read english....
john March 10, 2012 at 04:39 PM
Yes they can
Diane Wolf March 10, 2012 at 05:37 PM
Do you know what causes me to slam on my brakes most often, while driving around Salem? Jaywalkers.

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