Speed enforcement cameras not an issue in West County; red light cameras are
You may have noticed red light cameras at area intersections that help catch motorists who run red lights by photographing their license plates; however, some St. Louis County municipalities are putting up portable speed enforcement cameras to catch unsuspecting motorists.
These are similar but separate issues.
Red light cameras are installed on state highways where there are safety issues involved with cars running red lights. There is no speed enforcement involved with red light cameras.
Speed enforcement cameras are placed by individual municipalities and can be moved from place to place indiscriminately. This does not sit well with St. Louis County Police Chief Tim Fitch, who believes the cameras are being used as a way to create revenue for cities, which he deems an improper use of law enforcement power.
He used the example of a city putting a speed camera at the bottom of a hill on a four-lane state highway that is zoned 35 mph, is not a school or construction zone and does not have a history of accidents related to speed as an example of “improper use.”
“If it’s a high accident area, as long as it’s done right, I’m OK with it,” Fitch said. “It’s just (not right) when they decide to throw them up where there is no history of accidents related to speed. That’s not what we’re there for. We’re there to protect.”
The 13 speed cameras Fitch is aware of are all situated in Central and North County; north of Page Avenue, east of I-170 and south of I-270.
“What this area has in common is that they have a lot of smaller cities with budget issues, and they are using the cameras to make money,” Fitch said.
Current MoDOT rules state: “Cameras may be used to assist with enforcement of state speed limit laws in school zones, work zones and Travel Safe Zones on the state highway system. Use of automated speed enforcement equipment in any other location is not allowed.”
Fitch said these cities are getting around the clearly stated MoDOT rule by moving the speed cameras off the right-of-way and onto city property. There is no way to enforce this rule when the camera is off the highway property.
A group of North County ministers held a press conference Oct. 9 urging the County Council to put the issue of regulating speed camera use on a future ballot – thus, giving voters an opportunity to have their voices heard.
Bob Grant, deputy county counselor, said getting an issue on a ballot could be done in one of two ways.
One, the County Council could pass an ordinance and call for an election. If a simple majority of people voted for it, then it would become law in any general or special election.
Second, petitions can be drafted that have the exact language of the proposed legislation. The petitions need to be signed by qualified voters equal to 5 percent of the number of total votes cast for the Missouri governor in the last election in each of the seven county districts. Once the petitions are filed with and approved by the Board of Election Commissioners, then the issue can be put on the ballot at the next general election at least 90 days after filing. It would need a simple majority to pass.
Fitch brought this information to the County Council as well and suggested that an ordinance be passed to put some enforcement teeth into MoDOT’s rules about the cameras.
“Right now, it’s in the hands of St. Louis County to adopt an ordinance to put it on the ballot,” Fitch said. “If they don’t want to act, the citizens could initiate a petition and put it on the ballot that way.”
County Councilmember Colleen Wasinger represents a portion of West St. Louis County (Ward 3). Her office indicated that there has been no discussion on the County Council about the speed enforcement camera issue.
Fitch said he is not aware of any speed enforcement cameras in West County, but Ellisville has four red light cameras: two on Manchester Road, one at Clarkson and Clayton roads and one at Clarkson and Marsh roads.
Creve Coeur also has red light cameras at the following intersections: Ladue Road and Couer De Ville Drive, Ladue and Emerson roads, Olive Boulevard and I-270, and Olive Boulevard at North New Ballas Road. The current contract does not expire until 2013, however, at the City Council meeting on Oct. 8, Police Chief Glenn A. Eidman and City Attorney Carl Lumley presented councilmembers with an overview of the program to date in anticipation of the first reading Oct. 22 of Bill No. 5398, which would clarify and simplify several aspects of the city’s intersection safety ordinance and also affirm the City Council’s intention of continuing the red light safety program.
Currently, Ellisville, Creve Coeur, Ballwin, Chesterfield, Des Peres and Clarkson Valley have no speed enforcement cameras and no plans to install any.