Smile! You're on red-light camera
Maggie Carlson
Of the Suburban Journals
St. Peters Journal
12/18/2005

ST. PETERS

Red-light cameras will only be effective in catching red-light runners if photos of the drivers are taken.

That's the conclusion St. Peters Police Deputy Chief Mike Townsend said he came to after studying red-light camera systems in the nation and state. He presented his findings at the St. Peters Board of Aldermen work session Thursday.

Alderman Jerry Hollingsworth, Ward 3, brought the idea to the table in July.

Red-light cameras are typically set up at busy intersections and take pictures of vehicles running red lights. Tickets are then issued based on the photo. Originally, St. Peters talked about taking photos of only the vehicle's license plate, like the city of Arnold began doing earlier this year.

Hollingsworth said that the ticket would not hold up in court with just a photo of the license plate.

After much discussion, the board voted to put this on the next Board of Aldermen meeting agenda for a vote Jan 12.

Townsend said other cities saw the number of accidents drop after the cameras were installed.

"There is an initial increase, but after the people accept that these cameras are in place, these photo citations drop off by almost half," he said.

Hollingsworth said if the program helped reduce the number accidents, it would be a success.

"It's our job to do what is right for the residents," he said.

Townsend suggested the city start by installing cameras at six locations, but did not specify which locations. If the ordinance passes, the aldermen and Townsend said they would begin getting bids from red-light camera companies.

The red-light company would provide the cameras and service, and simply receive a cut of the overall revenue generated by the tickets.

"The city would not have any capital invested in the cameras," Hollingsworth said. "It would be no additional drain on the city."

After first expressing concerns the cameras may cause more accidents, Mayor Shawn Brown said he supported the cameras.

"If we can make it hold up and make it work and there's no cost to the residents, I'm for it 100 percent," he said.

Chief Tom Bishop said he did not know if there would be an increase in rear-end accidents, but said he believed there would be fewer broadside accidents, which cause more injuries.

"If you are talking about reducing injuries and saving lives, I think it probably would be a benefit," Bishop said.

Alderman Patrick Barclay, Ward 4, voted against putting the cameras on the next meeting's agenda because of the opposition he has heard from residents.

"If we hold off on this and let people respond to the fact that now it is going to be taking a picture of the driver that is what I would suggest," Barclay said.

Alderman Rocky Reitmeyer, Ward 1, said he fully supported the cameras.

"If we can save one life, stop one accident, it's priceless," he said.