Youngstown cuts speed camera program
A recent state law reduces funding for cities and towns using the cameras and that may have been a factor in the city's decision.
Thursday, October 17th 2019, 3:03 PM EDT by
Friday, October 18th 2019, 4:53 PM EDT
The city of Youngstown plans to stop using those controversial speed cameras.
According to Youngstown Law Director Jeff Limbian, the city will stop using speed cameras at the end of October.
The reason, a new state law that would cut local government funding dollar-for-dollar for cities and towns that use the cameras.
Limbian said each of the next two years; the city is expected to get about $1.7 million in local government funding. He adds that it's hard to say if speeders would bring in that much revenue.
"That's an awful lot of money to expect (from) drivers in the city of Youngstown. We don't want to seem as though we are being mercenary," said Limbian.
Police Chief Robin Lees agreed and said the primary reason was to reduce speed and in turn, accidents. Lees said he doesn't think the city should operate the cameras more than they already are, or reduce the 12 mile-per-hour leeway they give drivers on the highway to issue more tickets.
"I think we are again fairly responsible. We do it for a limited number of hours and locations, and we are looking to impact safety first and then again the revenue associated with it. I'm not going to deny, yeah, it's a big boon to us as far as being able to provide equipment for our officers and keep that fleet running," said Lees.
Lees disagrees with the legislation and says some other communities use the cameras often enough they won't be hurt.
"You have some other cities that have red-light cameras. They have speed cameras. They are in fixed locations. They're making enough money off them. They don't care about local government funds. For us, it's a balancing act," said Lees.
Lees also points to a 30% reduction in the number of accidents the first year of using the cameras on local highways.
"They didn't take into consideration the safety or the revenue, which we won't deny," said Lees. "Our ordinance, we crafted to allow for police equipment to be bought and particularly has been responsible for the upgrade in our fleet and some other equipment that we need, we wouldn't have otherwise been able to get."
Another factor in the administration's decisions may be that the money from the traffic cameras is limited to the police department, whereas local government funding can be more widely used.
"It was a tough decision because that money has been coming in so steadily, and it's been nice to have a little bit of a cushion," said Limbian.
Lees says, on average, the city brought in about $1 million each year the speed camera program was in operation. The program has been in operation for four years.
21 News asked Limbian if the cameras have, in essence, been a "money grab" for the city?
Limbian said, "I think in large measure all those who operate city government realize this gave us breathing room. So, yes, money was absolutely a component. So there is no way around that, but it was really a healthy thing to see the rate of accidents and death on highways in our local area were minimized."
Officials warn, though, that just because the speed cameras will no longer be in use, officers will still be pulling over speeders using traditional enforcement.
"We may see speed pick up, and we know when people drive faster. We know there will potentially be more accidents," said Lees.