NMA Reboot: What a Difference Four Years Can Make


This weekly post features recent news stories that highlight and update themes previously covered throughout NMA E-Newsletters and Alerts.

Editor’s Note: Reporters, looking to get to the root causes of the civil unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, have uncovered a link between the recent tensions and overbearing traffic enforcement targeted mostly toward African-American drivers. Washington Post columnist Radley Balko’s latest post examines how relentless traffic enforcement has compounded the financial and legal burdens of area residents, making it nearly impossible for many to recover and get back to their normal lives.

The NMA highlighted the initial push to install speed cameras in suburban St. Louis, where Ferguson is located, back in 2010. At that time, some police officials expressed concern that the cameras were nothing but a money grab. One has to wonder what happened to that justified skepticism in the intervening four years. 

NMA Email Newsletter Issue #78: Law Enforcement is Skeptical Too

Members of several small cities in north St. Louis (MO) County are banding together to create what they call an “accident-reduction corridor” along Interstate 70. Their plan is to coordinate speed enforcement patrols and increase the penalties for those who are ticketed.

Not everyone in law enforcement is buying it.

Noting that a meeting facility used a few weeks ago by the I-70 speed trap group was rented by B&W Sensors, a local speed camera company, St. Louis County Police Chief Tim Fitch raised the question of whether the group’s game plan is a preliminary effort to bring in highway photo enforcement and boost revenue for the cities. Fitch was especially candid in his comments, “What does that tell you?” he asked rhetorically. “This is about cameras and it’s about revenue.”

Clayton borders I-70 for a short distance, but that city’s Police Chief Tom Byrne refuses to get involved with the effort to increase speed enforcement actions along the interstate, saying that it “has all to do with speed cameras.” He does not believe that the cameras are the right tool to enforce speed laws.

Fitch takes a pragmatic view with regard to the use of highway ticket cameras. He feels that photo enforcement should be used only in areas where there is a history of speeding problems and where the use of cameras is supported by accident data. Fitch notes that even then, the state should control both the camera programs and the money generated by those programs. “If you can kill the revenue portion of this, the cities will no longer be interested in speed-enforcement cameras.” He added, “That’s the bottom line.”

No truer words have been spoken.

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