Cleveland mobile traffic cameras challenged
Ordinance says city must notify public
Friday, August 17, 2007
Leah Boyd
Plain Dealer Reporter

Cleveland may have wrongfully issued thousands of tickets for traffic violations caught on mobile cameras because the city failed to follow its rules for using them.

When Cleveland started using the cameras in 2005 to catch speeders, the City Council required the director of public safety to notify the public by news release at least 30 days before a traffic camera was used.

Mike Besser of South Euclid said he presented a hearing officer at the Justice Center with the city's ordinance and a copy of an e-mail from the Law Department that stated the city never sent out a release for its use of mobile cameras.

Both of his speeding violations were dismissed Wednesday.

His case raises questions about the thousands of tickets issued since the city began using mobile cameras.

"These cameras are supposed to be used for public safety, not as money grabbers," Councilman Mike Polensek said. "I would question the people administering it. What were they thinking? How much would it take to send out a press release - my guess is someone doing their job."

Last year traffic cameras - both fixed and mobile - generated nearly $6 million for Cleveland. Of the 85,861 tickets issued in 2006, about 25 percent were violations caught by mobile cameras.

About $1.5 million of the money came by way of mobile cameras.

Andrea Taylor, a spokeswoman for Mayor Frank Jackson, said Thursday she knew nothing about Besser's case, and as she understood it, the city ordinance required only that the mobile units be placed in clearly marked police cars.

She added that she does not think the ruling in Besser's case will affect closed cases. It may affect pending cases if the appropriate court rules the city is at fault, she said.

The public was notified by news release Oct. 14, 2005, that the city would start using stationary cameras. There are currently 42 stationary cameras at various intersections and six mobile ones in police patrol vehicles.

Plain Dealer reporter Patrick O'Donnell contributed to this story.

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