ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MO (KTVI) – Fox 2 News has learned of a secretive speed enforcement operation that running across St. Louis County. Security officers are photographing your plate and mailing tickets.
“They look very suspicious,” said Ruthesia Willis, describing one of the individuals. “She has, like, a little radar sitting out her window.”
Over the last two weeks, the Fox Files watched.
“As a citizen and a tax payer, I’m wondering who is she,” Willis said.
During our investigation, we spotted several people pointing radar guns at cars on Natural Bridge Road. They’re using the parking lot of a now closed barbecue joint in Uplands Park. It’s a town of 445 residents, located just a couple miles from the campus of University of Missouri St. Louis.
“If Uplands Park is in a bad situation, they need to be open honest and upfront to the people so that they can get the taxpayers to be protected with real police officers,” Willis said.
On three different days, our Fox 2 cameras found people clocking speeders: a man in a Chevy Tahoe, a man in a Dodge truck, and a woman in a Volkswagen.
Our news crew tried talking to the woman in the Volkswagen, who declared, “I don’t want to be on the news.” When asked if she was a police officer, the woman responded, “No comment,” and rolled up her window. Her plates were traced back as her personal car, but the plate on the Chevy Tahoe came back to Baine Public Safety.
That caught our attention, because Baine was the company behind these speed cameras that have now been outlawed. You may remember Fox 2’s 2013 video from Bommaritto Automotive Skyfox. Fox 2 showed long lines of people in neighboring Pine Lawn, all with eerily similar speeding tickets.
Back in 2013, residents said their tickets all showed the same speed.
"We were just talking to everybody in line and everybody’s ticket was for going 51 in a 40. Everybody knew they weren’t going 51," said resident Barb Brown.
Back in Uplands Park, one of the radar operators said to call the man in charge, John Baine.
Baine would not agree to talk on camera, but by phone he said, “We would not be out here if it was not legal and constitutional.”
Fox 2 News attempted to get answers from Uplands Park City Hall. A clerk gave our news crew the number for the city attorney, who promised to send a copy of the contract.
The village is currently policed by St. Louis County authorities. Chief Jon Belmar was surprised to learn of the secretive operation and offered blunt criticism, calling it “a money grab.”
“This is an unfortunate workaround to the speed cameras, which the Supreme Court struck down, and I think it’s an inappropriate workaround,” Belmar said.
Chief Belmar ran the numbers for the quarter-mile stretch in Uplands Park, finding just five accidents in three years. He said the operation isn't about safety. He's concerned it could hurt the relationship police departments are trying to build in communities.
“To shoot all that down merely by hiring a security company to run radar and mail people tickets, it’s ridiculous, it’s unethical, it’s immoral,” Belmar said. “It oughta be illegal.”
Fox 2 News also learned this operation is now in several other municipalities. However, the man in charge, John Baine, will not say where.