Ellisville considers dumping red light cameras

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ELLISVILLE, MO (KTVI)– More cities nationwide are reportedly dumping red light cameras. Fox 2 has learned a St. Louis suburb may be about to join the list.

The Wall Street Journal reported a 6 % drop in cities using red light cameras since 2012.

Ellisville may be next, as soon as Wednesday night.

Mayor Adam Paul said they were no longer worth the trouble in city that certainly had its fill in recent years.

In a suburb of fewer than 10,000 people that’s repeatedly made headlines for its rowdy meetings, national headlines for impeaching then re-instating its mayor, for losing a battle over fining people for flashing headlights to warn of police radar, the mayor doesn’t have much stomach for more headlines on red light cameras.

“Is this something that we want to continue, giving the city a black eye?” Paul queried in an interview Tuesday.  “There’s about 5,000 tickets issued each year.  That’s 5,000 people who get a ticket in the mailbox 10 days later from driving through our city.  With all the publicity we’ve had, negative publicity, you’ve got to weigh the pros and cons of everything.”

The cameras have repeatedly caught violators at Ellisville’s busiest intersection, Clarkson and Manchester, since they went in.

But drivers still race through the intersection.

City leaders say there are conflicting statistics on whether the cameras have made driving safer here.

Driver Evan Grace said he liked the camera program, quirks and all.

“I almost had an accident the other day.  I had the right of way.  I had the green light.  Someone ran through the light.  I had to slam on my brakes.  That was not a pleasant experience,” he said.

Driver Lisa Hellmann said she understood the constitutional issues, even though she’d gotten red light camera tickets and paid the fines.

“Paying them is better than having warrants out for your arrest, but then again, it seems like it’s going against [the Constitution].  It’s ‘guilty until proven innocent’ with the red light cameras,” she said.

A state appeals court agreed, finding the Ellisville camera program unconstitutional.

The city council voted against further legal defense.

“It might be ok with the other cities, it might work out well with the other cities but for our cities and the three cameras we have, it’s killing us. Ultimately Ellisville’s trying to get back to a quiet town,” Paul said.

American Traffic Solutions (ATS), the Arizona company which operates the cameras and splits the revenue from fines in Ellisville, has cameras in other states that take pictures of offenders’ faces.

Fox 2 asked why those cameras weren’t used in Missouri since it seemed they might help end some of the legal wrangling.

ATS did issue a response. Spokesman Charles Territo  issued this statement:

“Red-light safety cameras are designed to change driver behavior and in Ellisville, that’s exactly what they have done.  Red light safety cameras were installed in January 2009, since then, accidents have dropped 44% from 112 in 2008 to 63 in 2013 at the intersection of Manchester & Clarkson.  After the cameras were turned off this past November, the number of events captured increased by 24%. Further, an astonishing 94% of people who get and pay a ticket never get another one.”

ATS will get a chance to makes it case at the city council’s work session Wednesday night.

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