Update: 2.14.2014Circuit Court Judge Steve Ohmer has ruled that the City of St. Louis may continue operating its red light safety camera program. Just three days ago, Judge Ohmer decided that the City's safety camera program was invalid. But today, he suspended that decision pending the City's appeal.
"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."
The suspension order, or stay, granted in this case means that red light safety cameras in the City immediately will be turned back on and enforcement of this important public safety ordinance will continue. The stay also requires all fines received for all red light safety camera violations occurring during this stay to be held in escrow by the City of St. Louis.
"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."
Original Post 2.12.2014
"We have a court of appeals opinion from June 2013 that found only one small flaw with our program, which we fixed," said City Counselor Michael Garvin. "On Tuesday, a lower court judge issued a ruling, which conflicts with the court of appeals decision. We are trying to follow the various courts' decisions, but because there are so many conflicting rulings, it is difficult. So, this issue remains on a path to be decided by the Missouri Supreme Court."
The issue is not whether red light safety cameras are legal, but rather how they are operated administratively. The City may also seek state legislative clarification.
"Red light safety cameras save lives and are a proven, effective tool that is changing driver behavior in the City of St. Louis," said St. Louis Metropolitan Police Chief Sam Dotson. "At some of the earliest intersections to install cameras, citations are down more than 80 percent. According to the Missouri State Highway Patrol, from 2010 - 2012, total traffic fatalities in the City of St. Louis dropped 19 percent and total crashes have dropped 12 percent."
Red light safety cameras also serve as an additional tool to help solve crimes. In the spring of 2012, a deadly crash caught on tape by a red light safety camera helped police and prosecutors solve an outstanding murder case. There are currently 150 occasions in which police have requested video from the red light safety cameras to assist in investigations.
Cities put up traffic signals to prevent crashes and to keep traffic moving smoothly. Not enforcing them would defeat the purpose of having them. The police chief would rather not divert police officers from patrolling neighborhoods and fighting crime. So, red light safety cameras make sense for the City.