State Senate debates bill to ban red light cameras

By Jon Kalahar - bio | email

JACKSON, MS (WLOX) - Stopping drivers who run red lights became such a big priority for several cities across the state that they installed red light cameras to snap pictures of the violators.

In Jackson, police say the cameras have cut down violations and reduced the number of accidents.

So why do state lawmakers want to ban the cameras?

"When we feel it's been misused or abused, then I think it's time for the legislature to step in and do something about it," said Senator Tom King, (R) Petal.

Senator King chairs the transportation committee in the state Senate. He says his committee has been bombarded with calls to get rid of the red light cameras. Currently, Jackson, Tupelo, Columbus and Southaven use the cameras to catch violators and mail them a $75 ticket. Two others, Natchez and McComb, have passed ordinances to allow them and others like Biloxi have considered installing the cameras.

"People feel like they're not receiving due process... the city people think they feel like it's more of a revenue generator than a safety issue," said King.

Representative Ed Blackmon authored a bill to keep the fine from showing up on a driver's insurance or credit report, but the House amended his bill to ban the cameras altogether.

Law enforcers say the cameras are a valuable tool. Statistics from the Jackson Police Department show at intersections where red light cameras were installed, accidents decreased by an average of 68 percent.

But Blackmon, whose daughter received one of the tickets, feels the whole process is wrong.

"The camera takes a picture of a car, it doesn't take a picture of a person driving. There's no identity there. And they send out a notice to the alleged offending party, in this case always the owner, saying, 'Were you driving? If you weren't, tell us who was driving,'" said Blackmon.

One other concern for some lawmakers is the money generated by the tickets. More than half of that revenue goes back to the company that operates the cameras.