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Niles chief joins outcry against traffic cameras

Published: Thu, February 5, 2009 @ 12:08 a.m.

The police chief joined residents and some councilmen in opposing the cameras.



NILES — Residents who crowded council chambers Wednesday for a public meeting on the possible use of computerized cameras to catch red light and other traffic violators emphatically told council they don’t want the monitors in Niles.

“It’s just a racket to make money,” complained resident James Sheely. Opponents found an ally in Police Chief Bruce Simeone.

“I think we are better served with police officers patrolling than relying on those cameras,” Simeone said. “That’s our job.”

The comments followed a presentation by representatives of Traffipax, the Baltimore, Md., company that is also trying to persuade the city of Warren to use the cameras. Their local consultant, Hank Angelo, former Warren mayor, said the cameras “free up police to go after the worst kind of criminals” because they are not tied up with traffic violations. Gwyne Miller, the company’s regional sales director, said the purpose of the cameras is to increase safety and not spy on residents.

“This is not a ‘Big Brother’ issue,” Miller said. The audience disagreed.

“You’re going to lose your rights here,” said Luis Perez of Niles.

“It’s creepy—it creeps me out,” said Richard Mikesell, a partner in Warren-based Cookies to Go, who said he would not deliver cookies to Girard when that city had the Traffipax systems.

“Business drops off because of the cameras,” Mikesell said

Councilman Ed Stredney, safety committee chairman, explained that Traffipax representatives had asked to make the presentation, and he viewed it as strictly informational.

“Right now, there is no thought of any ordinance coming out about this,” Stredney said.

Miller said the city would not have to pay for the cameras, which would be owned and operated by Traffipax, with Niles and the company sharing revenue from violator fines. Miller said the cameras would be placed on streets where most red-light violations or accidents occur.

Simeone was asked if he knew of such locations in Niles.

“Not off the top of my head,” the police chief said. “I can’t think of any right now.”

Councilman Stephen Papalas and Council President Robert Marino voiced their opposition. None of the remaining council members spoke in favor, and Stredney said he believes the idea is dead.

“We may well be the first council in Ohio to say ‘no’ to the cameras without voting on legislation,” the councilman said.

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