State and local officials in Missouri continue to argue about the legitimacy of red-light cameras.
State Sen. Jim Lembke, a St. Louis-area Republican, thinks the cameras represent an affront to liberty. Tonight in St. Louis he will debate Antonio French, a city alderman who believes in cameras' crime-fighting properties.
Lembke enters the discussion with the wind at his back. An adjunct professor at the University of Illinois-Chicago is coming out with an analysis indicating that collisions actually increase at intersections monitored by red-light cameras.
The professor, Rajiv Shah, studies Chicago's use of
video surveillance. Shah looked at data from 39 intersections and
found a 6 percent rise in crashes after cameras were installed.
Officials in Chicago, Kansas City and other cities have promoted red-light cameras as a means of improving traffic safety. Critics say cities are using the devices to boost fine collections.
Based on what he's seen, Shah's inclined to side with the critics. "Despite what the city says, there doesn't seem to be any safety difference here," he told the Chicago parking blog The Expired Meter.
The Kansas City Police Department released numbers in April suggesting that cameras were scaring motorists straight. At most intersections, cops were issuing fewer tickets than they did during the cameras' first few months on the job.