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Todays Letters: Red light cameras are un-American

Letters to the Editor
Published February 19, 2008


Re: Stoplight cameras in works, story, Feb. 14

Clearwater has now joined the bandwagon on how to increase revenue rather than reducing spending: traffic cameras! Those wondrous (for municipalities at least) for-profit robotic cameras that destroy the American ideal of "innocent until proven guilty."

Before we dig deeper, please remember that most traffic cameras are sold by, administered by, and citations are sent by a private company, not the local government. This is a profit-making company that will split the revenue from taking your money with the city of Clearwater.

Let's go through the drill here. The camera takes a picture of a license tag. Hmm, the pixels are blurry, so it goes to humans for review. They decide what they interpret is the right tag number. That person gets a ticket.

The vehicle gets the summons, not the driver, so it is then up to the owner of the vehicle to take time off from work and wait for a magistrate or make an appointment to prove that he is innocent. If the picture also captures a driver's image but it is blurred, the automatically presumed guilty party must prove that the blurred image is not them.

Now the really interesting part. Cities that are not reaching the revenue projections guidelines presented by the salespersons representing the company are told to decrease the length of time that the yellow stays lit. Shorter yellow equals more citations.

A March 2008 Car and Driver editorial summarizes a report funded by the Federal Highway Administration and the Virginia Department of Transportation. One of the findings of the report was that "cameras in some cities were associated with an increase in total crashes."

Before Clearwater signs a contract with whatever company is proposing this revenue boost under the guise of safety, the citizens deserve some safeguards.

1. The city of Clearwater should mandate that the yellow light length of all applicable intersections will be timed, assuring that the time is equal to federal guidelines for major intersections throughout America that are not monitored by a red light camera. That time will then be posted on the city Web site for all citizens to see.

2. The city will provide a local magistrate with hours that extend early in the morning and late in the evening to assure that the citizens who work varying schedules are given the opportunity to be proven innocent, an American right.

3. The increased revenues go to offsetting the bloated Clearwater budget, thereby reducing taxes.

Perhaps the city should revisit the traffic signal timings on its major roads. Relieve the frustration of sitting at four red lights within four blocks with no cross traffic, and you will have happier, safer drivers.

Robert Ihrie, Clearwater

Leave teenagers in park alone!

My son and a corps of future servicemen from the military enlistment center on U.S. 19 embarked on a physical training exercise in the public park located at the end of Soule Road in Clearwater. This relatively small group of teenagers, accompanied by a corporal in the U.S. Marine Corps, was criticized by two women in the park for "being in the way."

Despite an offered apology for the inconvenience, these women were still unhappy. In fact, they regularly call the city to complain about such terrible sins as playing soccer in the open areas, working out (situps/pushups/pullups, etc.) and generally, just having this youth group in the vicinity.

The city regularly dispatches an employee who discusses these "sins" with the young men and women, implying that the complaints are justifiable. It's to my way of thinking that this should not be allowed to continue.

First, the kids are not doing drugs, committing a criminal act, otherwise creating a nuisance or threatening anyone. Considering these are future servicemen, I find myself at a loss as to why this process and the official involvement continues.

Bluntly, these women are not my idea of the kind of citizens that my son might give his life to protect. After all, this is a public park and these kids are part of the public. The conditioning they receive may one day enable one or more of them to be better soldiers, save others and/or get home alive.

Please publish this so that others may realize that not all youth activities are negative and that the park system is for everyone, not just for a selfish few.

Dave Wyckoff, Dunedin

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