St. Charles looks into cameras for intersections
By Mark Schlinkmann


The City Council has taken a step toward adding St. Charles to the list of municipalities using automatic cameras to catch drivers running red lights.

The council voted 6-1 at a work session Tuesday night to authorize city staff members to seek proposals from companies seeking to install and operate the equipment.

One supporter, Councilman Rory Riddler, 1st Ward, suggested that council members and other city officials propose intersections that they think should get such treatment.

The council would still have to vote on legislation to contract with a firm to install the equipment.

Another supporter, John Gieseke, 8th Ward, said the cameras are a cost-effective way of increasing enforcement.

"We don't have the funds to put a police officer at every stoplight," Gieseke said. "Everybody should get a ticket if they run a red light."

The lone opponent - Councilman Mark Brown, 3rd Ward - complained that the cameras are a way to make money for the companies involved. He added that it reminded him of totalitarian states such as the old Soviet Union.

"This has really nothing to do with providing more safety," Brown said.

Gieseke responded by saying there shouldn't be an expectation of privacy in public places. He said, for example, that video cameras in convenience stores are checked by police in investigating robberies.

City Administrator Allan Williams said if the council goes ahead with such a system, he'd like the city cable-TV channel to list people convicted of running lights along with videotapes of their violation.

Before voting, the council heard from representatives of two companies that operate such systems. One firm, Redflex Traffic Systems, was recently chosen by St. Peters, while the other, American Traffic Solutions, has installed cameras in Arnold and Florissant. Other firms also could submit bids.

Under the system planned by St. Peters, a vehicle entering an intersection against a red light activates the camera to take a photo of the vehicle's license plate and, in some cases, the driver as well. A ticket is then mailed to the vehicle's owner.

On another traffic matter, Councilwoman Dottie Greer, 7th Ward, raised the idea of requiring drivers using cell phones to use headsets, but she got no support from other council members.

Greer said she wasn't advocating the idea but felt obliged to bring up the matter after getting repeated calls from constituents. "They want something to resolve this problem because they see so many near-accidents" involving people phoning and driving, Greer said.

Other members said it would be difficult to enforce the requirement given all the other distractions motorists engage in. Brown and Riddler noted that police officers can ticket motorists they believe are driving in an unsafe manner.