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Coast Star Stories About The Cameras

This is such a big story that Molly had to write two articles about it.  The first one is mostly about Mr. Callari’s presentation and the nuts and bolts of how it works and all the governmental BS.  Coast Star subscribers can read it here.

The second story is about the community’s (Connie, Tom, and myself)  opposition to it.  It is reprinted below with the permission of The Coast Star Newspapers.


Residents ask council not to install red-light cameras

“Why do we need these cameras to scare people away? Let people be free.” CONNIE DALLAPORTAS, Resident

 By Molly Mulshine

BELMAR — Residents spoke out against the possibility of bringing red-light cameras to town after a representative from American Traffic Solutions [ATS] gave a presentation to the council [see related story, page 1].

Resident David Schneck spoke first, asking ATS representative Charles Callari several questions about the technology.

Mr. Schneck first asked if there was a statute of limitations between when the alleged infraction occurs and when the person gets notice of it.

“There is a 90-day statute, so from the point of capture, the municipality must serve the defendant within 90 days,” Mr. Callari said. “It can be up to 90 days but practically speaking, we don’t” wait that long.

“When you get pulled over by a police officer, you know what just happened,” Mr. Schneck said. “If you get a notice weeks or even months later, especially if it’s an intersection you drive through all the time, you can’t really defend yourself because you don’t really know what the particular circumstances were that day at that point in time.”

There have been cases of people placing false representations of license plates on their cars and intentionally running red lights to get other people in trouble, Mr. Schneck said.

“Let’s say it’s a late-model Civic or Ford Focus or something and they make a fake license with Photoshop and the camera can’t tell it’s a fake license plate,” he said. “How do you tell?”

ATS has not come across any instances like this, Mr. Callari said, although Mr. Schneck insisted he had heard of such incidents.

Mr. Schneck also asked if the cameras could dissuade people from coming to Belmar, but Mr. Callari said the traffic counts have not gone down in towns where cameras were installed.

Mr. Schneck also asked why Mr. Callari had included in his presentation that usually, 70 to 80 percent of infractions are from transients and only 20 to 30 percent are from locals.

“Why is that a relevant thing to discuss?” he asked. “They’re not voters so they’re not going to be mad at the mayor?”

“I wanted to give residents some indication that there are people who are complying with the law,” Mr. Callari said. “I’m just giving you an indication of who’s violating.”

Also, T-bone accidents are “not happening where people miss the red light at the intersection,” Mr. Schneck said. He referenced a study which showed most T-bone accidents happening between five and 16 seconds after the light turned red.

Broadside collisions, known as T-bone collisions, are where the side of one vehicle is impacted by the front or rear of another vehicle or a fixed object, forming the “T.”

Running red lights to the point of causing accidents is “not that common,” he added.

He also mentioned several lawsuits in which ATS and its main competitor, RedFlex, have been involved.

In one instance, Hertz automobile renting company was “turning over the credit card numbers of people renting cars to ATS” and the first indication drivers got of a violation was on their credit card bill, Mr. Schneck said.

“There was a class action lawsuit because Hertz was charging people’s credit cards,” he said.

Also, ATS has been involved with lawsuits with municipalities, where the company sued several towns for backing out of the program, even when a referendum showed the majority of voters did not agree with having the red-light cameras in town, Mr. Schneck said.

ATS has sued Houston and Baytown, Texas, Mr. Schneck said.

“In Baytown, Texas, the citizens got so mad about red-light cameras they passed a law saying a uniformed officer had to be present at the intersection for a ticket to issued,” Mr. Schneck said. “Tickets went way down and what happened? ATS sued Baytown.”

Baytown settled with the company for $1 million, and Houston for $5 million.

Mr. Callari said he was unaware of these lawsuits.

“If Belmar passed a referendum saying we don’t want these cameras in town, will we get sued?” Mr. Schneck asked.

“No,” Mr. Callari said.

“Each and every contract in New Jersey has a clause that allows the municipality to opt out of the program for any reason,” Mr. Callari said.

Connie Dallaportas then spoke out about the cameras.

“We try to bring people to the town,” she said. “We try to make business booming. Why do we need these cameras to scare people away? Let people be free. Let people walk into Belmar … and feel like they’re not prisoners to the cameras.

“We all make mistakes,” she added.

Mr. Schneck spoke again later in the meeting.

“There have been dozens of towns where people have risen up and demanded that the cameras come down or not go up at all,” Mr. Schneck said. “If towns had already signed contracts, they got sued.”

A councilman in a Texas Gulf Coast town where red light cameras are an important issue won his seat by running on an anti-red-light-camera platform, Mr. Schneck claimed.

“Politically, this is a dog,” he said. “I don’t think this is a good idea.”

Thomas Dilberger also spoke out against the cameras.

“He [Mr. Callari] kept talking about money, of course, but also about changing behavior,” Mr. Dilberger said. “Have we ever learned by now we never change behavior? Never ever. You can make laws up, down, sideways and everything else, you’re not going to change people’s behavior.”

He called the idea “a ridiculous thing.”

“Please don’t approve this,” he said. “This is really bad stuff because it will get legs. It will multiply itself … There’ll be cameras everywhere. You won’t be able to move. It’s an invasion of privacy … Please, when this comes in front of you, turn it down.”


Just a couple of comments I’d like to make:

If Mr. Callari hasn’t heard of red light camera “pimping” maybe he should watch the Fox News report about it embedded a few posts down.  I would think that someone in the red light camera business would know about this, but then again he also didn’t know about ATS’ $25 million lawsuit against the city of Houston either.

I didn’t say that the cameras would dissuade people from coming here, although Connie did say that.  I actually said that red light violations at those intersections might drop, but not because people drove more safely but that people might start using Rt 71 instead of Rt 35 in order to avoid the cameras.

About the 70:30 ratio of transients to residents who would be getting the tickets, It was obvious to everybody that he was talking about the politics of it.  When I pressed Mr. Callari on why that information is at all relevant, he made the absurd claim that people drive safely in their own towns but recklessly when in other people’s towns.

Later I pointed out that the great majority of violations (I’ve since learned it’s about 80%) are for missing the light by 1 second or less.  But according to the Texas Transportation Institute, the overwhelming majority of “T-bone” accidents happen 5 to 16 seconds after the red. Callari knew nothing about this.

All in all, pretty good story though.


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