Traffic cameras to round up racers in St. Ann

Friday, February 5, 2010 | 6:09 p.m. CST; updated 6:57 p.m. CST, Friday, February 5, 2010

ST. ANN — Officials in the St. Louis suburb of St. Ann tried everything to slow down drivers on a busy road that passes by a middle school and a park. Now, they're turning to technology.

Traffic cameras have become commonplace, but St. Ann is the first city in Missouri to install a camera aimed specifically at catching speeders. The camera went up last month. Violators are getting warning tickets for now, and that will continue through the end of February and maybe longer, City Administrator Matt Conley said Friday.

After these warnings, owners of speeding vehicles will get their tickets in the mail. All fines will be $100, regardless of the speed. St. Ann, a town of 14,000 residents, gets $60 from each ticket, and $40 goes to St. Louis-based B&W Control Systems Integration, LLC, the company that provides the camera and technology.

"We just want people to slow down," Conley said.

Ashby Road in St. Ann has Hoech Middle School on one side and a city park on the other. Conley said cars tend to zip through the busy, hilly stretch despite speed limit signs of 20 mph when school is in session and 30 mph the rest of the time.

"It's mostly people who don't live in St. Ann," Conley said of the speeders. "The people who live in the city know that it's a school zone, a park zone. They probably have kids that go to that school. They're much more willing to abide by the speed limit."

In fact, of 158 warning tickets issued since the camera went up, only nine went to residents of St. Ann.

Speed cameras are growing in popularity. Last month, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed retrofitting 500 city and county traffic lights already equipped with red-light cameras to photograph the license plates of speeders as well.

Speeding contributes to one-third of all crash deaths, according to the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety. The organization has said that speed cameras are effective in slowing down drivers.

But opponents say there are many concerns.

"It violates our constitutional rights," said Shawn Dow, chairman of Arizona Citizens Against Photo Radar and an operator of "It's a private company that's enforcing laws."

"This is about raising revenue for your government and the company. When you take law enforcement and make it about profit, it's no longer about public safety and justice."

Conley said St. Ann has gone out of its way to inform the public about the camera with signs, media interviews and the lengthy period of warnings.

"This isn't about money," he said. "How anybody can think it's OK to speed through a school zone escapes me."

It wasn't clear where the line would be drawn on tickets. Would speeders going 22 mph in the 20 mph zone be ticketed? Conley wouldn't say.

"This is not a speed trap," he said. "I'll just leave it at that."


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