Traffic offenders caught on tape?

01/16/08 Mitch E. Perry
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Hillsborough County Commissioners took the first step today toward approving placement of video cameras at certain traffic intersections to nab motorists who run red lights.

A motion by Commission Chair Ken Hagen will have the county’s legal department review a proposed ordinance that supporters say will not cost taxpayers any money.

Two officials from the Hillsborough County Sherriff’s Department then made a presentation to the Commissioners. A corporal recited statistics from New York and Philadelphia where such cameras are used.

Orlando and Apopka have also adopted the cameras.

The corporal said if the county approves such an ordinance, a community outreach program would be presented to alert citizens about the cameras.

Once up and running, the cameras would capture video of a car as it passes through a red light. That information would be sent to computers and reproduced as still photos. Deputies would view each photo before the violation notices are sent out.

Drivers would be able to go online to check the video and pay using a credit card or go to court to challenge the ticket.

The ordinance is being vetted by the county’s legal department.

In 2005, Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist issued an opinion that said that cities and counties can only issue warning – not tickets- when using cameras at intersections.

County Attorney Renee Lee said violators will theoretically not be affected negatively on their insurance premiums.

But Commissioner Jim Norman questioned Lee on why insurance companies wouldn’t be able to learn about motorists who repeatedly get cited on camera for running red lights.

Commissioner Hagen and others say the program would be worth it for public safety. They also say it will pay for itself, with the monetary fines paid by motorists. The county would also see some of that money.

Clerk of the Court Pat Frank said she thought the concept appeared sound, but would probably be a bit more complex to implement than the Hillsborough Sherrif Department officials made it seem.

The idea was something that in general most of the County Commissioners seemed to support. Both Mark Sharpe and Brian Blair said the cameras would work as a needed deterent, including for themselves.

In addition to cities and counties adopting such technology, Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Carey Baker says he wants to create a law that sets a statewide standard for cities and counties to install cameras.

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