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Largest Missouri County Considers Public Vote On Photo Ticketing Ban
St. Louis County, Missouri once again considers a ballot measure to outlaw the use of red light and speed cameras.

Tim Fitch
Residents in St. Louis County, Missouri may have the opportunity to decide whether red light cameras can ever return to their community. The county council on Tuesday decided to set the issue for discussion in March, though council chairman Lisa Clancy refused to provide an exact date.

"This is the red light speed camera issue that we would like to take, if approved, to the voters to decide if they wanna be governed in this manner," Fitch explained.

The referendum plan was introduced by councilman Tim Fitch, the county's former police chief, with the support of councilmen Ernie Trakas and Mark Harder. If approved by one more of the seven-member council, the item would be placed on the November 3 ballot. The idea drew support from the public at a council meeting earlier this month.

"There are any number of reports and studies that have been done across this country that beyond a shadow of a doubt demonstrate that red light cameras are not this great [boon to] public safety that they reported to be," St. Louis NAACP chapter president Adolphus Pruitt said. "In most cases, it has been shown across this country when a red light cameras have actually increased accidents and, in some cases, fatalities versus the opposite." [view studies]

Only one photo ticketing program operates today in the Show Me state, and it is not in St. Louis County. The Missouri Supreme Court issued a series of decisions in 2015 that found private companies had been operating the devices in a way that violated state law.

"Despite the Supreme Court decisions, one city in Missouri has red-light cameras because their ordinance, as written, was not affected by the decisions," the Missouri Department of Transportation explained in a 2018 report to federal regulators. "The city of Hannibal currently has four intersections with automated red light camera enforcement."

Missouri previously had thirty jurisdictions using cameras, so the charter amendment would ensure that the devices do not return under revised city ordinances.

In 2017, the Missouri Court of Appeals upheld the right of counties to hold a referendum to put the use of red light cameras to a public vote (view ruling). The case was brought after 73 percent of voters in St. Charles County rejected the use of automated ticketing machines. The public's decision angered politicians in St. Peters, Lake St. Louis and O'Fallon who faced a steady loss in revenue from photo ticketing vendor Redflex Traffic Systems of Australia. In 2008, the mayor of St. Peters served a year in prison for soliciting a bribe from the Australian camera firm.

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