Tonawanda News

December 28, 2013

Residents voice opposition to red-light cameras in the City

By Jessica Bagley
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Local drivers are protesting the City of Tonawanda’s initiative to install red-light cameras at three busy intersections after the council passed a resolution to start the planning process. 

The agreement with Phoenix-based Redflex Traffic Systems, Inc., will come at no cost to the city. The program is still subject to state approval, and if it is granted, the new council will have to pass another resolution authorizing the use of the cameras.

The cameras would be added to the intersections of Niagara and Seymour streets, Delaware and Broad streets and the Twin City Highway and Young Street. If the plan is approved, the cameras could be installed in March. 

Mayor Elect Rick Davis, who will be sworn in Jan. 1, said he supports the project and Police Chief William Strassburg’s recommendation.

“We really can’t put an officer at those intersections to watch people running red lights,” Davis said. “After talking with the chief, talking with RedFlex and watching some footage from the intersections ... it’s obviously a problem that needs to be addressed.”

The resolution was passed earlier this month with little discussion, but some area drivers are now speaking up in opposition to the proposal. Some are simply concerned about receiving the $50 tickets, while others have called the plans a “money grab scheme.” 

“If that was the case, we would be putting them up at more intersections than we are,” Davis said. “If there is revenue generated from the red-light cameras, we’ll discuss putting it back into public safety in some shape or form.” 

Joshua Dubs, an attorney who lives in North Tonawanda, said he opposes the plans for different reasons. Dubs, who helped fight a similar proposal in Buffalo, argued that a company — with no interests in Buffalo — shouldn’t be policing Tonawanda.

“Companies answer to their shareholders, like they should, not the people. You can’t ask them to serve and protect the people,” he said. “They are in business for the profit.” 

Dubs, a former candidate for North Tonawanda city attorney, also pointed to studies that indicate that the number of accidents increase when red-light cameras are installed. Instead of going through a yellow light, drivers opt to slam on their breaks, leading to more rear-end collisions. 

“It’s more trouble than its worth,” he said. “It would affect anyone who drives through the city, not just the residents.” 

But Davis and Strassburg have argued that the cameras will still cut down on serious accidents.

“I would much rather be rear-ended by someone going five to 10 mph than get T-boned by a semi going 45 to 55 mph,” Davis said. “The city is reactive instead of proactive far too often, and it shouldn’t take a family of four to be hit by a semi to get us to do something. Don’t run a red light, and you won’t have a problem.” 

Those who do run the lights will receive a bill and will be able to log in to a website to view a 12-second video of the violation. Tonawanda officers will have the final say on approving each ticket and will be able to dismiss bills for emergency vehicles and other purposes.

Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000 ext. 4150, or follow her on Twitter @JessicaLBagley.