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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.

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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