Use of speed cameras in the Valley must stop

Speed cameras are becoming a growing commodity in communities around the Valley, and it simply must stop, because while speeding is a public-safety issue, it shouldn’t be used as an aggressive revenue-generating source.

On May 11, this newspaper called for Lordstown Village officials to slam their brakes on the idea of using speed cameras. Since then, Vienna, a township in a dire financial crisis, has broached the topic, to much dismay of its residents, to recoup a plethora of funds that recently went missing and help fund the operation of the township.

In a recent discussion with one of our reporters, Vienna Trustee Phill Pegg said they would likely sign the contract with Blue Line Solutions of Chattanooga, Tennessee, which has contracts with Girard, Weathersfield, Liberty and Youngstown, at the township’s next meeting on June 3.

Blue Line is also in discussions with Lordstown.

Youngstown also recently announced that its unmanned speed cameras in school zones will be turned back on in September. They were turned off about a year ago due to complications with the municipal court system and have been off ever since.

Most communities in the Valley have discussed using speed cameras with the safety of residents and students in mind and we agree, that should be a primary focus. However, some communities have not been shy about ulterior motives when it comes to installing speed cameras. They are seen as a revenue generator and that is something that we have consistently not agreed with as we believe that there are other ways to keep departments financially solvent.

In Lordstown, money from speeding citations is being considered for the creation of an impound lot and to bolster police department operations. In Vienna, it would go toward getting the township out of a deep financial hole. The lack of police officers to monitor certain areas and using the funds to improve police equipment also have been reasons for other communities in the area.

There is also the concept of fairness and due process that has produced bumps in the road in communities where speed cameras have been installed. To put it into perspective, in the three months of enforcement in Youngstown, 22,424 speeding citations were issued, and about 300 of those are being contested. The city didn’t have a system in place to handle the appeals, which caused the shutdown.

But now they do.

Youngstown City Law Director Lori Shells Simmons recently said that the city is in discussions to hire a part-time magistrate to handle the appeals. She said there is a final meeting on June 10 to “wrap it up.”

Good for the city as motorists deserve the opportunity to appeal a citation if they believe they did nothing wrong. In the past motorists could have been charged by an uncalibrated speed camera or could have been fined even if they weren’t the driver of their vehicle. If local communities do move forward with their use of speed cameras, we encourage them to follow in Youngstown’s footsteps to make sure there is a proper appeals process in place before fully rolling out their program.

That being said, we also implore Valley motorists to follow the laws of the road when it comes to adhering to posted speed limit signs, especially in school zones.

In a recent study of speeding vehicles in Lordstown, police Capt. Chris Branam said a radar box on Salt Springs Road at Tod Avenue, near the schools, tracked 10,385 vehicles over five days. Of those vehicles, 1,982 of them committed speeding violations of driving 11 or more miles per hour over the posted speed limit in the school zone.

We agree that is simply too much, and while we do not endorse driving unsafely or speeding on interstates, community roads and school zones, and we never will, we do not believe speed cameras are the answer.

We believe that there are better ways to slow motorists down while also improving the safety of residents and students. Using unmanned speed cameras that have the potential to take millions of dollars from the local economy is not the answer.



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