DAYTON, OH- In yet another case of “big brother,” police in Dayton, OH have begun deploying laser speed guns that take photographs of traffic scofflaws and cite drivers without them having to conduct a traffic stop.

While this probably works wonders for officer safety, one needs to maybe question the 4th Amendment implications of such a device.

The units, which are trailer mounted, are like the mobile speed signs that one sees routinely deployed throughout communities.

Dayton police always publicizes where fixed traffic cameras have been located and expects to also publicly announce the location of the mobile units.

The DragonEye Speed LIDAR deices went into use in October and are primarily used on Interstate 75 and U.S. Highway 35.

According to Detective Jason Ward of the police department’s crash reconstruction unit:

“When an officer doesn’t have to pull out, it’s safer for the violator, safer for the officer, so we’re not stopping on I-75 downtown in the middle of rush hour.”

Since the units went into service, over 1,200 citation have been mailed out.

Along with the new laser devices, Dayton cops have also installed traditional red-light and speed cameras at five intersections with high rates of car crashes. Ward said that the locations of these cameras has been “heavily advertised.”

“We want people to know that photo enforcement is back,” he said.

The devices do have their limitations. They do not have flash technology such as cameras commonly used on toll gantries, therefore they are ineffective after dark.

Let’s not forget the fact that traffic stops also uncover other little things, like drunk drivers and felons.  Minor detail though, right?

Meanwhile, in Phoenix, AZ, the city council refused to extend the contract for red light cameras in that city.

One of the councilmen, Carlos Garcia, said that he did not oppose public safety, but instead was opposed to the citations issued by police, along with resulting traffic school classes that violators must pay to attend.

“My issues are particularly with the entire industry that’s been created that are taking advantage of people that are low income,” he said.

In addition to the red-light cameras, the contract also includes speed radar vans that have been located in school zones.

The city council did decide to extend the contract specifically for the mobile speed enforcement in school zones. The vans are placed near a different school each week. The vehicles are intended to get drivers to slow down near school campuses across the city.

The city of Cedar Rapids, IA recently settled a class-action lawsuit over a collection effort launched in that city two years ago only days before Christmas.

In December 2017, the city was attempting to recoup over $17 million in unpaid tickets dating back to 2010 whereby state income tax returns were withheld to settle the debt. The city netted nearly $4 million from the efforts which included $3.1 million collected from the tax offset program.

As part of the settlement, the city will refund $3 million, as well as cease attempts to collect unpaid tickets issued before Aug. 31, 2018, which amounted to about 177,000 tickets.

Cedar Rapids finance director Casey Drew told City Council members that the settlement was being made, “to avoid additional time and expense to all parties involved, the city recommends settling this before going to trial.”

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Police department starts using speed guns to give tickets without traffic stops

 

The city admitted no wrongdoing in the settlement, and it has no bearing on the city’s current use of traffic cameras used to enforce speeding and red-light violations. The cameras are deployed at nine locations, including four on Interstate 380. The cameras have held must over several constitutional challenges to their deployment.

Let’s not forget about what happened in New Miami, Ohio a couple of years ago.  In that city, speed cameras became a lucrative source of revenue for the small village.

The town, with a population of about 2,200, collected over $3 million in fines. Consequently the fines were levied against people exceeding the speed limit through the small community. They installed stand-alone speed cameras along one of its major throughways, US 127.

Speed cameras generated significant revenue

The speed cameras in New Miami automatically fined motorists $95 if they drove faster than 50 miles per hour, according to Fox News. Since the entire town is only one square mile, the violations appeared to be overwhelming.

This proved to be a lucrative venture for the village just 35 miles north of Cincinnati. With a dramatic increase in capital, the town raised its annual budget from roughly $1.5 million to $2.5 million in 2013.

Judge orders repayment

But the cash cow just fell on the house of cards. The village of New Miami must repay every dime. That’s $3 million it suddenly has been ordered to deliver to motorists that were part of the 2014 class-action lawsuit.

An Ohio judge ruled in favor of drivers, who claimed they were unfairly ticketed. The judge referred to the fines as “unconstitutional.” The lack of “due process” was mentioned in the report. However, the process to contest a citation was not mentioned.

“Any collection or retention of the monies collected under the ordinance was wrongful,” Butler County Ohio Judge Michael Oster wrote in his decision last week.


Citations and revenue

The village reportedly cited almost 45,000 people. Moreover, they collected $1.8 million during 15 months the cameras were tracking drivers. The village paid another $1.2 million to Optotraffic, the company that ran the speed camera program.

Judgment

“We’re gratified and we’re getting closer to being able to show the drivers that we’re going to be able to put some money back into their pockets,” Mike Allen, attorney for the plaintiffs in the class-action suit told, Fox News. “Any municipality that enacts speed camera legislation can expect their budgets to swell.”

Meanwhile, the village has reportedly spent over $100,000 in defense of its’ actions. A lawyer for New Miami told Fox News that it planned to appeal the decision.

“We could see the direction that this was going and we’re disappointed in the outcome,” James Englert, the village’s outside counsel, told Fox News. “We think the village has it right.”
Police department starts using speed guns to give tickets without traffic stops

Josh Engel is an attorney representing motorists. He is “confident” the decision will be upheld.

“Judge Oster upheld a basic constitutional principal that municipalities have to provide due process to people, and if they don’t do that, they have to refund the money,” Engel told Fox News. “The village has spent a huge amount of public money trying to defend this statute and at some point, someone in the community has to say, ‘we need to stop spending money on lawyers and just own up to our responsibilities.’”

 


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