Group wants red-light cameras out of Missouri town

Tuesday, December 30, 2008 | 3:45 p.m. CST; updated 9:35 a.m. CDT, Thursday, July 9, 2009

ST. LOUIS — A group of citizens in the first Missouri community to install red-light cameras wants them taken down, saying they think tickets issued because of the cameras are unconstitutional.

A committee called “Don’t Tread on Me” said Tuesday that it’s hoping to collect enough signatures in the eastern Missouri community of Arnold to either persuade the City Council to repeal the ordinance allowing the cameras or to let voters decide the issue on an April ballot.

Arnold, a Jefferson County community with about 20,000 residents, passed a law in 2005 allowing the city to be first in the state to have red-light cameras, which are now at four intersections there, said City Council member Matthew Hay, a member of “Don’t Tread on Me.” The cameras record vehicles that run red lights, with tickets later issued for violations.

“Don’t Tread on Me” said it needs 835 registered Arnold voters for its petition to get the measure on the ballot to move forward.

Another member of the group, former City Council member Paul Vinson, said about 450 signatures have been collected so far.

“It’s probably about 3-to-1, the numbers of people who are willing to sign it,” he said.

Phone messages left at Arnold City Hall were not immediately returned, and the police department did not have anyone available Tuesday who could answer questions about the city’s red-light cameras.

The citizens’ group has a half dozen members, who say they formed to promote independent thinking in municipal office.

They believe tickets issued because of red-light cameras are unconstitutional. Hay said the tickets for running a red light are sent to a car’s owner, even if someone else might have been driving it at the time.

Group members also said that while crashes inside the Arnold intersections with red-light cameras may have decreased, they believe rear-end collisions there have increased, largely due to people stopping abruptly at yellow lights or in an effort not to run a red light.

A federal lawsuit against Arnold was filed earlier this year in U.S. District Court in St. Louis. It seeks to outlaw the cameras that a growing number of communities see as a safety tool, but which critics see as a way to generate money.

The ongoing lawsuit by Fenton residents James and Kara Hoekstra alleges that the ticketing process is illegal and unconstitutional, collecting fines through fraud and extortion to benefit the city and its red-light camera contractor. It seeks unspecified damages.


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