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Shaker Heights Considers Red-Light & Speeding Cameras

The discussion is expected to continue at the next 2013 budget work session at 7 p.m. on Monday

Though Mayor Earl Leiken does not consider the addition of red-light cameras to be a significant budgetary matter, it could generate as much discussion as any change slated for 2013.

City officials plan to continue the discussion on major-intersection cameras that would detect red-light and speeding violations at the next 2013 budget session on Monday. Shaker Heights Police Chief D. Scott Lee is scheduled to give a detailed explanation regarding why the police department wants to implement the technology used by communities like Cleveland and East Cleveland. The public will also have an opportunity to chime in on the issue.

The matter was discussed at the city's first budget work session on Nov. 19.

"The purpose is to help the police maintain safety and security in the community," Leiken said at Monday's city council meeting. "The safety implications are obvious."

The mayor believes that there are at least twice as many people driving through the city on a daily basis as there are residents. He added that police will inform residents where the cameras will be located and signage will be installed. Leiken said he did not know specific locations yet, but most major intersections in the city are likely to be included.

Leiken said the city receives emails and calls about speeding, particularly in the morning hours when people commute to work. He cited the recent death of 25-year-old Shaker Heights native Brian Horwich as an example of the type of incident that the cameras could help prevent.

The mayor has also received messages from people who are leery about the concept and why the police department is recommending it. In response to emailers and Shaker Heights Chamber of Commerce President Debra Hegler, who spoke in dissent during a public portion of the council meeting, Leiken insisted that the installation of cameras is not a move to generate more revenue.

"It will provide some revenue, definitely, but that is not the primary reason we want to do it," he said. "(There are) lots of concerns expressed by residents about speeding, not just in the main streets, but also on the side streets. We're going to get more police in the neighborhoods who can monitor the situation on the side streets and deal with the issues there, and red-light cameras would likely be on the main streets."

Leiken said the city has not projected revenue from violations that would be caught by the cameras.

Hegler told council and city officials that she believes most cities who install cameras do so for monetary reasons.

"I think that the issue is not only an insult to the community that has recently agreed, in order to help balance the budget, to payroll tax increases," Hegler said, "and then their reward is now we're seeing an increase in revenues all across the board in the city, from the recreation department to certificates of occupancies for rental properties.

"Now, we're looking at a hidden tax, or a not-so-hidden tax, in the form of red-light cameras being considered as part of the budget."

Aside from offenders, the cameras would not come at a cost to residents, the mayor said. Instead, the third-party company the city chooses to operate the ticketing system would take a percentage of the revenue from violations as compensation instead of charging the city for the cameras. The city has yet to put out proposals for companies that operate violation cameras.

Leiken said the city is prepared for backlash.

"Anything that involves change is going to be resisted," Leiken said. "It's going to require all of us to be more careful when we go through major intersections.

"Me, too."

Cindy Courtright November 28, 2012 at 12:46 PM
Trying to "sell" red light cameras based off the tragic death as a result of both speeding & drinking is underhanded & opportunistic. Be real. Speed cameras have only one purpose: REVENUE. I think the Constitution & amendments still allow for a citizen to have the right to confront their accuser. There can be numerous reasons why someone has sped; a camera does not have any gray areas, everything being simply black & white. I, as a driver, therefore have no opportunity to explain or justify my actions. I would have the pleasure, if you will, of opening my mail several weeks hence & seeing that ticket, perhaps even without awareness I committed this error. The only saving grace of course is the lack of points on my license. On the other hand, red light cameras are something I am not opposed to, if for no other reason than those who don't respect their red light are becoming more & more prevalent, not just in Shaker Heights, but in every locale. It is difficult anymore to actually use one's own green light without first watching for the many transgressors blowing through their red light- most times, as many as 4 cars through the Chagrin/Lee intersection long after their light is red, & opposing light is green. Mayor Leiken, council members, Police Chief Lee: Do not allow yourselves to be blinded by the thoughts of increased coffers. Do your due diligence, get out there & talk to your residents who trusted you & placed you in these positions of authority.
Mark Zetzer November 28, 2012 at 06:57 PM
The City has more than enough police officers to enforce traffic laws with due process. The City has a spending problem, not a revenue problem, and should stop making our city more hostile to residents and businesses with endless tax hikes, fee hikes and other 'revenue' schemes. What's next, a public/private casino in Shaker Heights?
Allan & Henrietta Silberger December 02, 2012 at 10:55 PM
We think that traffic cameras will improve safety in our City. If SH is to be pedestrian and bike friendly, then traffic needs to be better controlled. We also applaud the idea of putting more police into neighborhoods. Too many drivers dodge traffic lights by speeding through residential areas. Greater police presence might also discourage drivers from discarding debris on the streets and lawns of our neighborhoods.

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