7/29/2009Ohio City Jumps the Gun with Speed Camera Tickets
Heath, Ohio forced to refund $26,500 in speed camera tickets because Redflex mailed tickets before the program start date.
Heath, Ohio was so anxious to start collecting on its new speed camera program that it issued $26,500 worth of tickets before the program was officially supposed to begin. The city's mayor, Richard J. Waugh, issued a statement Monday confirming that refunds would be automatic for each of the 265 vehicle owners mailed a ticket for alleged violations that took place on June 30. Redflex Traffic Systems, the Australian company that actually runs the program, was not supposed to have begun issuing tickets until July 1.
Taking a 20 to 30 percent cut of each photo citation, Redflex had an incentive to get the system up and running swiftly. Armed with eight combination red light and speed cameras devices plus two photo radar units, Redflex had racked up 8,483 tickets worth $848,300 by July 21. By now the total has surpassed the level of one ticket for each of the city's 8800 residents. While some would suggest that ticket writing at such a rate might upset residents, Mayor Waugh insisted that the cameras enjoy overwhelming public support.
"By a margin of more than two to one, 56 percent of respondents strongly agreed/agreed vs. 23 percent who strongly disagreed/disagreed," Waugh wrote on the city website, citing a survey conducted in 2008.
Local activists do not buy that for a second. The Heath chapter of We Demand a Vote has already gathered a sufficient numbers of signatures to force a referendum on Waugh's program this November. Petition organizer Becky Goodwin says the success of the petition is evidence of the unpopularity of the automated ticketing machines.
"We had no trouble getting the signatures," Goodwin told TheNewspaper. "We only spent two weeks collecting names."
Goodwin said Heath had set up traps with the most productive camera placed in such a way as to snare out-of-town visitors as they enter the city on route 79. The camera is difficult to see on a curve where the speed limit suddenly drops from 50 MPH to 35. She believes this has already had a negative impact on the city.
"Many businesses are seeing fewer customers in their stores and less traffic on 79 due to the cameras," Goodwin said. "Customers have called and told businesses they will not be back unless the cameras come down. We believe the voters will come out and support the issue to ban the cameras."
No photo enforcement program has ever survived a public vote.