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Some State Lawmakers Casting Wary Eye on Red Light Cameras In Cities

By Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Red light cameras have been a boon for local governments, but, despite their "revenue enhancement" role, they're under attack in Trenton and Harrisburg.  Some state legislators would like to get rid of them.

Philadelphia is the only city in Pennsylvania that has the cameras that snap a picture of your license plate if you roll through a red light, but the city's permission to use them expires June 30th.

Pennsylvania state representative Rick Geist is threatening to oppose the extension of the program in Philadelphia and its expansion to other communities.

He says the cameras, run by private contractors, make it too tempting to entrap drivers, "by changing default times on the yellows and stuff like that.  And you don't want to incentivize any community to cheat, to raise revenues."

Some legislators in New Jersey, where 49 jurisdictions use red light cameras, have similar concerns. Assemblywoman Valerie Huttle has introduced a bill to eliminate them statewide.

"I'm not quite sure what's driving the cameras," she tells KYW Newsradio.  "Is it the revenue or the public safety goal?"

Advocates say it's definitely public safety: they reduce accidents and, over time, violations decrease, too, negating any revenue motive towns may have.

But Huttle believes that turning law enforcement over to private industry is unconstitutional.  "It also removes the due process," she says.

Huttle has introduced a bill to eliminate the cameras in New Jersey. She's not convinced they improve safety. She thinks it's about money: the $9 million in fines collected across the state over the last two years.

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