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Unplugging red-light 'scameras'

Support for Cherry Hill man's campaign

My Sunday Inquirer column about Rick Short's crusade against New Jersey's red-light cameras seems to have galvanized other opponents of these problem-plagued devices -- which supposedly enhance safety but definitely enrich municipal coffers.

Emails, voicemails and online comments reveal a genuine fervor for allowing the state's pilot program to expire Dec. 16. Which will be the case if N.J. Assemblyman Declan O'Scanlon, R-Monmouth has anything to say about it.

Via email, Scanlon assails what he calls "the misinformation campaign by local officials and the camera companies" about purported safety improvements. In reality, he writes, the devices "virtually entrap people into committing thousands of technical - but not hazardous - violations." He likens this arrangement to "government stealing from the people it is supposed to serve."

Short, of Cherry Hill, and a research collaborator, Lawrence Township resident George Ford,  have analyzed public data and concluded that the cameras not only don't reduce crashes but could contribute to an increase in rear-end collisions. They also point out that most tickets are issued for right-on-red infractions, which are less likely to cause accidents than other moves.

"What a farce, what a racket---my first ticket in 45 years as a Cherry Hill resident," a township man says in an email. A woman from suburban Philadelphia writes, "feels like highway robbery!"

Other foes insist the cameras are yet another money grab by municipalities whose property tax rates already verge on confiscatory. Being told that some machine has issued an $85 ticket for their own good just makes things worse, they say.  And they're right.