ST. LOUIS – On Friday, a St. Louis judge granted a stay on a decision he made three days ago, that halts the red-light camera program.
That means on Tuesday, citizens who received red light camera tickets in the City of St. Louis didn't have to pay them. The stay means the cameras are being turned back on and collections will resume, with a caveat.
Judge Steven Ohmer ordered that any money collected during the appeals process go into an escrow account. If the higher court agrees with the judge, all the money will be returned to citizens.
But if the appellate court agrees with the City of St. Louis, the money will go back into government coffers.
"Red light safety cameras in the City immediately will be turned back on and enforcement of this important public safety ordinance will continue," said city spokesperson Maggie Crane.
"They are going to turn them back on because they are addicted to this money. What is amazing is that the judge found the ordinance to be void….When the ordinance has been declared void, the city risks getting sued for violating the civil rights of citizens. I feel it coming. I feel in my gut that just might happen," said Bevis Schock, the attorney suing to have the red light camera program thrown out. "The whole idea of snooping around with cameras on our citizens to charge them with crimes is an un-American awful concept. George Orwell warned us against it in his book 1984."
Since 2008, St. Louis has collected more than $32 million from red light tickets. Of that, Crane says Arizona-based American Traffic Solutions received $10 million for operating the cameras.
"It's a simple, honest-to-God money grab," said Sandy Thurmond, who got a red light ticket.
Some believe the issue will ultimately be decided by the Missouri Supreme Court.
"There are a total of six conflicting decisions across the state of Missouri dealing with red light camera safety programs," said City Counselor Michael Garvin. "Until those issues are decided by the Missouri Supreme Court, there is no clear guidance on how cities' red light safety camera programs should operate. We believe we have a good case for the Supreme Court to decide."
"We strongly believe that local law enforcement know how best to protect our citizens," said St. Louis Metropolitan Police Chief Sam Dotson. "Red light safety cameras have saved lives, reduced crashes and improved driving behavior in St. Louis and across the state."