The Supreme Court of Missouri has decided not to issue an opinion on whether red-light cameras are constitutional, despite the urging of the state’s two largest cities’ police chiefs. St. Louis has stopped issuing tickets to motorists caught on video by red-light cameras, while Kansas City continues to enforce them.
Meanwhile, state legislators have squabbled over the issue since 2004, when one proposal called for an all-out ban on red-light cameras. The St. Louis suburb of Arnold was the first community to install them two years later. Different courts have taken different stances on whether they are constitutionally enforceable, leading to confusion in some municipalities on whether to use them.
Rep. Mike Colona (D-St. Louis) and Rep. Michele Kratky (D-St. Louis) were recently struck by a vehicle at an intersection; Colona posted about it on Facebook:
Red-light cameras “can be good for things other than deterring people from running red lights – – Rep. Kratky and I were involved in this accident Monday – thank goodness there’s a red light camera at Chippewa and Landsdown that caught the … whole thing,” the post reads. “We are ok, but this video helped me convince the insurance company I was not at fault. Technology at its best. Here is the link.”
St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson agrees that the cameras can be helpful in cases other than traffic violations. He says a red-light camera video recently helped his investigators solve a murder.
“I see red-light cameras as a force multiplier,” he said. “And whether its enforcing the traffic laws — it is illegal to run a red light — or helping with investigations. I’m aware of at least 150 times that we’ve used video as part of an investigation or to solve a homicide.”
Dotson says it helps investigators determine who was in the area of a crime. The area of this murder, in particular, was at Skinker and Delmar, where shots were fired. With the video and through social media, Dotson said investigators were able to identify an individual who fired shots into a car, discard a pistol, flee by foot, and later, a stolen vehicle.
This year’s incarnations of bills targeting red-light cameras include the following:
SB 587 — Requires political subdivisions using automated traffic enforcement systems to distribute such fines to local school districts for transportation purposes. (Sen. Will Kraus, R-Lee’s Summit)
SB 599 — Restricts the storage and use as evidence of data collected through automated license plate reader systems. (Sen. Will Kraus, R-Lee’s Summit)
HB 1207 — Prohibits any entity that is authorized to issue traffic tickets from implementing a new automated photo red light enforcement system at any intersection within its jurisdiction beginning September 1, 2014. (Rep. Kenneth Wilson, R-Smithville)
HB 1290 — Requires any automated traffic enforcement system to include a sign located at the intersection indicating the presence of the system. (Rep. Keith English, D-Florissant)
HB 1292 — Requires any traffic enforcement system photograph to depict the driver from the front in order for the violation to be valid. (Rep. Keith English, D-Florissant)
HB 1533 and HB 1976 — Prohibits the use of automated traffic enforcement systems beginning August 28, 2014 and allows any political subdivision to complete or terminate any automated traffic enforcement contracts within 1 year. (Rep. Bryan Spencer, R-Wentzville)