LAKELAND, Fla. - Despite vocal opponents, the Lakeland City Commission gave the stamp of approval to add 10 new red-light cameras.
By a 6 to 1 vote, the board agreed to expand the program. When installed, the city will have a total of 19 cameras that cover as many as 10 intersections.
During a public hearing before the vote, staunch opponents explained to the commission why they think expanding the program is a bad idea.
"I can't believe I'm hearing this," said Jim McGuire, who strongly opposes the program. "Everybody is making money off of this and there is all kinds of room for corruption."
One of the opponents who spoke out is retired Florida Highway Patrol trooper Paul Henry. He argues that the idea of mailing a ticket to the owner of a car that ran a red light, flips the justice system upside down.
In his words, violators are "guilty until proven innocent."
"These are some of the dangers when you turn law enforcement into a for-profit scheme, which is what you're trying to do here," he said. "Where do you want to stop? Where do you want to draw the line? How much is enough?"
One of the main arguments of opponents is crash data. They say it does not show a clear drop in crashes since the program started three and a half years ago.
For instance, in the last two years, the number of total crashes at intersections with cameras dropped from 66 only down to 62.
City leaders argue that the better indicator of progress is the number of violations. They used to ticket more than 3,000 red-light runners per month when the program first started.
Now officers ticket less than 1,000.
"There are a lot of people who are not here today who have emailed us, called us, stopped us where they’ve seen us and have said this is a no-brainer, what is taking you so long," said Mayor Gow Fields.
Despite the sometimes loud voices from opponents on Monday, the commission sided with the quieter supporters, and voted to expand the program.
Commissioner Justin Troller was the lone no vote.
"A lot of people came down here today and we all feel like we wasted our time," McGuire said. "We made good points, but they voted them in anyway."
The additional cameras will be installed in the next six months.
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