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Councilman fights to keep red-light cameras out of St. Louis County

Fitch said he is so against automated ticket writing that he will write preventative legislation and introduce a measure next week that sends the issue to residents

ST. LOUIS — Leaders have given a green light to red-light camera vendors in the city of St. Louis, accepting proposals from companies vying to relaunch the technology on city streets.

But reaction has been swift from those who remember the last time municipalities embraced the technology.

"Right when they started, I started getting calls about them," attorney Ed Brown recalls. 

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Brown said his secretary was one of the first people to get a ticket after red-light cameras went up around the region. Though it brought some business to his law office, he doesn't support a return to practice.

"The problem with these tickets really is that it eliminates the human element," Brown said. "If a police officer pulls you over, he can use some judgment. The law isn't just about rules, it's about making judgments on situations."

Former St. Louis County Police Chief Tim Fitch questions the motivation, saying companies stand to profit "tens of millions of dollars in a city like St. Louis doing something like this, so it is all about the money."

Now a St. Louis County council member, Fitch said he is so against automated ticket writing that he will write preventative legislation, and he plans to introduce a measure next week that sends the issue to residents. He wants residents to vote in February on the issue of banning red-light cameras from the county.

"I know how this works," Fitch said. "When I was the police chief, one area started it and it started spreading and spreading and spreading."

Mayor Lyda Krewson's Director of Communications Jacob Long disagrees with Fitch's stand regarding motive.

"What St. Louis City is interested in is saving lives. Period. This is not a money grab," Long told 5 On Your Side in an email, adding that the data "clearly shows roadway and pedestrian fatalities are soaring in the years since cameras have been nonoperational."

The city cites traffic numbers that show between 2012 and 2014 -- the last three years red-light cameras were in use -- 117 people died in crashes. 171 people died in the three years after they were pulled, a 46% increase.

The data doesn't provide context to show whether the deaths were caused by people running red lights, or other issues like inclement weather and distracted drivers.

Long writes if St. Louis leaders implement traffic camera citations, "the City anticipates using (the revenue) to fund pedestrian safety and other infrastructure improvements that will make our roads safer."

Contact reporter Sara Machi on Facebook and Twitter.


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