It took Youngstown lawmakers four years to get from talking about traffic cameras to voting to place them in school zones, but the Ohio General Assembly may have the final say on the issue.
About a week after Youngstown City Council unanimously voted to install 10 cameras in school areas this summer, the House Transportation, Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee Wednesday approved legislation to prohibit communities from using traffic cameras to enforce speeding laws and red lights. The measure, which law enforcement officials strongly opposed, has been sent to the full House.
Speaker William G. Batchelder, R-Medina, said a vote could be held before the General Assembly breaks for the summer. The legislation would then move to the Senate, where President Keith Farber, R-Celina, says he does not yet have a gauge on the bill’s chances, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
If the measure becomes law, it would block the use of automated cameras and radar equipment, but would permit mobile cameras in school zones, so long as there are signs alerting drivers to their use and an officer is present to monitor the equipment, the Plain Dealer reported.
Given the uncertainty, Youngstown’s law department may want to explore its options, including the use of mobile cameras.
Proponents of traffic cameras, led by law enforcement agencies, argue that the streets have been made safer. But critics contend that citizens are denied due process that they would be guaranteed if their traffic ticket had been issued by a police officer.
But while Youngstown may be facing a setback with the installation of the traffic cameras, there is nothing to prevent the administration of Mayor Charles Sammarone from proceeding with the installation of surveillance cameras on West Federal Street downtown and on the South Side near St. Dominic Church.
The city has been seeking proposals and should move quickly to make the project a reality.
As we have noted in this space, surveillance cameras have not only proved to be a deterrent to crime in cities around the country that are using them extensively, but are also an important investigative tool when a crime is committed.
Yes, we have long worried about the cost a free society must bear in the name of safety. Civil liberties are not to be surrendered lightly. But we also acknowledge that the reality on the ground requires drastic action.
As the temperature rises, so will the crime rate in the city of Youngstown.