Elmwood Place is a village in Ohio with only about 2,100 residents. In September of last year, the town just north of Cincinnati had two traffic cameras installed to nab speeding drivers, mostly as they made their way to I-75 .
According to the Associated Press (AP), the cameras issued 6,600 tickets and racked up fines to the tune of $1.5 million in just one month. What’s more, locals said it deterred some from visiting their businesses (or at least angered customers) and even reduced the congregation of a church.
“I had two customers say they’ll never come back,” David Downs, who owns the small business St. Bernard Polishing Co. where one speed camera is located, told TheBlaze in a phone interview Friday. “They can go across the river to another small business …in a more friendly town.”
Downs went on to explain that his business, which he has owned for 25 years, is located in the zone where the speed limit drops from 35mph to 25mph.
The AP reported Rev. Chau Pham, who leads the congregation at Our Lady of Lavang Catholic Community Church, saying about 70 parishioners were ticketed one Sunday in September 2012. He also said that much of the church’s Vietnamese parishioners are from outside the village and a third of them have stopped coming because of the cameras.
These men and larger companies like Procter & Gamble Co. and J.M. Smucker Co. with establishments in the area brought on a lawsuit against the cameras, according to AP.
Thursday, Hamilton County Judge Robert Ruehlman ruled the camera system in the village violated due process of Ohio’s constitution and were “a scam.” He called hearings for those fighting the tickets “a sham.”
“Remember Optotraffic has a financial stake in this game,” Ruehlman wrote in his ruling of the company running the cameras. “I use the term ‘game’ because Elmwood Place is engaged in nothing more than a high-tech 3 Card Monte. It is a scam the motorists can’t win.”
Fox News reported the plaintiff’s attorney Mike Allen saying he thinks this might be the first ruling against speed cameras — red light cameras have seen unfavorable rulings in the past — in the country.
“This could be a major turning point for people that are aggrieved by these kind of things,” Allen told Fox News.
AP reported that the town, like many small villages around the country, is short on money and might have seen the cameras as a revenue booster. It also noted Police Chief William Peskin saying his staff only consists of auxiliary officers and one full-time officer. In 1998, Peskin said, there used to be nine working full time.
“I understand that the village needs money, but do it right,” Downs said. He claimed that the village hadn’t posted a public notice about the cameras among other issues regarding where they were installed and the court process to contest them.
Not everyone completely disagrees with the cameras. The AP reported local roofing company owner Dave Siegel saying, although he disagreed with the high cost of the fines, he felt the cameras were effective and were protecting children.
“I think people are slowing down, and that’s a good thing. I think it’s here to stay. And others will do it,” Siegel said according to the AP.
Going forward, Downs said he expects the judge’s decision will be appealed. But he said their lawyer is ready to take the case all the way to the state level. He also told TheBlaze that although the cameras are off now, they will remain installed until “they completely shot dead.” In the mean time, Downs said he has noticed a physical police presence on the roads today.
“The police are out in force running radar today,” Downs said, noting he saw some hiding in between other cars. “And that’s fine.”
Downs said he agrees with police officers giving tickets to those breaking the law but the speed cameras, he said, were unfair.
“We were getting tickets two weeks after the fact,” Downs told TheBlaze. “How are you supposed to learn? One person got five tickets in one day.”
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Featured image via Shutterstock.com.