Ohio Cities Fight Red-Light Cameras
As Redflex Traffic Systems fights a shareholder revolt at home in Australia, the speed camera vendor is simultaneously battling a public revolt against photo ticketing in two Ohio cities. Next Tuesday residents of Chillicothe and Heath will have the opportunity to vote on citizen-led initiatives that would ban the use of red light cameras and speed cameras. Redflex has poured substantial cash into an advertising blitz covering both towns.
“Vote NO on Issue 5 and keep Heath safe,” read a Redflex brochure sent to Heath voters this week. “In the last four months alone, at enforced intersections in Heath… red light running has reduced by almost half… 90 percent of speeders are not Heath residents.” Duane Goodwin, who helped put the referendum on the city ballot, insisted that the Redflex numbers regarding the cameras’ safety benefit were bogus. He cited Redflex traffic counts that showed 58,754 fewer automobiles had traveled on camera-monitored roads — a 27 percent decrease in traffic — as a result of out-of-town motorists avoiding the cameras by shopping elsewhere. “Our little town revolves around business,” Goodwin said. “It’s a crushing blow.”
A survey of six national chain stores that operate in Heath as well as nearby Lancaster and Zanesville showed that Heath sales were off nearly 14 percent compared to a 2 to 3 percent drop in the other cities. Redflex has fought back against the citizen initiative in Chillicothe with an even more aggressive advertising campaign. In addition to mailing a version of the Heath brochure with one new photograph and the city name replaced, Redflex enlisted Police Chief Roger Moore as the company’s spokesman in a radio promotion. Moore told voters that approving the initiative would result in a total ban on the use of radar guns and other commonly used police equipment. “The language is pretty clear,” Moore explained in an interview with WBEX radio. “I just can’t see a scenario where a police officer is running radar and he can stop a car in one location, freeze them in time, go to that vehicle and write a citation. Without that happening they would be in violation of this proposed change.”
Rebekah Valentich, head of the group Citizens Against Photo Enforcement (CAPE), rejects Moore’s interpretation and wonders whether it is ethical for an appointed city official to appear in a commercial meant to influence an election for the financial benefit of a foreign corporation. A review of the proposed referendum language suggests it would allow the use of radar as long as “a law enforcement officer” presents the ticket to the alleged offender (view initiative text). Compared to the resources available to Redflex to defend its multi-million dollar contracts, the citizen opponents must make do with a less well-financed response. CAPE has purchased a small newspaper advertisement along with twenty radio spots in Chillicothe — despite a failed effort by Redflex to buy all available airtime. In Heath, Goodwin happens to be owner of the Dr. Signs sign-making shop. Goodwin says the city’s business owners and residents across the entire city have been more than happy to put anti-camera signs on their property. At the end of the day, Goodwin believes his cause will succeed.
“I’m faithful,” Goodwin told us. “As mad as people are and as bad as business is hurting, I can’t believe we’ll be the first people to keep them.”
No city has ever voted in a referendum to keep photo enforcement. A copy of the Redflex campaign ads can be found in a 700k PDF file at the source link below.
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