The Scales Of Justice

I thought this post was so well written, I asked the author, Roy Exum, to duplicate it here.

Reprinted with permission of the author, Roy Exum, originally appeared on the Chattanoogan.com.

It is pretty obvious that I am opposed to just about anything that threatens freedom and just as noticeable that I regard traffic cameras as a rather clear invasion of privacy. I feel that the Gospel tells us to “love your neighbor as you would yourself” and I cherish the fact that we ought to make rules (laws) that are in the best interest of those who live around us.

My dislike for traffic cameras comes not because I have been their prey, but because there is no evidence I can find anywhere to show they create a safer environment. If those who flirt with the idea their towns are better with cameras will do a bit of unbiased research, they too will find traffic cameras are chiefly used for what is little more than modern-day “highway robbery.”

Having done a stint as a member of a Town Council at one time in my life, I am well-aware that at each month’s meeting there are “reports” that show how many traffic violations were issued, how many automobile accidents occurred, et cetera. I have been told that there is virtually no change in what is called “hard facts” after traffic cameras are employed, but that the income generated by these devices, in the now-battered name of “safety,” is enormous.

Last week the City Traffic Engineer, John Van Winkle, testified to a state legislature committee that traffic cameras improved safety. When he got home, he reportedly sent out an email that this was not true. As you mull that oddity, know that earlier this week Joe Glasscock, the mayor of Red Bank, defended his town’s cameras, insisting they were for safety only, when in fact the “hard facts” of traffic incidents before and after the cameras were installed are virtually the same, if not worse.

The reason is simple. The huge majority of those who drive on Red Bank streets have no idea where the cameras are located. The traffic-camera peddlers recently told Signal Mountain’s Town Council there was a 30 percent decline in Red Bank traffic accidents, but, alas, it is now whispered that is untrue. Chattanooga City Traffic Engineer John Van Winkle, for one, would love documentation if it could be provided.

Further, the reason the camera’s “convictions” are not reported to insurance companies is because there is a serious legal question of how … er, “legal” the process really is. That is one reason Dalton took their cameras down. The Dalton mayor, an insurance agent, said at the time there was no evidence that could show cameras helped safety.

But the big thing is for the people to pull out the scales of justice and heap the evidence on both sides. On the left put the “hard facts.” How many speeding tickets, how many children run over while playing in the street, the car wrecks, the drunk drivers, the high-speed chases in an 18-month period before the cameras – just the facts.

Then, on the right side, let’s weigh the “hard facts” of the 18 months after the speed cameras were put in place. Understand, the “hard facts” do not include what the hidden cameras photographed, just the actual police report before and after. I am told the needle won’t move much, which will also show the presence of the cameras has little effect on overall safety.

But wait until you see what happens when you clear the scales, and next put the amount of money paid in traffic fines for the 18 months before the cameras on the left side of the scales and then, on the right, put the amount of fines paid in the 18 months after the cameras were installed. Oh, my goodness.

Yes, I am talking about the “net” because, in Chattanooga for instance, approximately 40 percent of camera money is kept by the out-of-town “photographer.” So let’s weigh the “before” and “after” in revenue alone that has been paid by one’s neighbors. If you don’t think the scales’ needle will jump like a goat that has just been goosed you don’t need to follow this story any further.

You see, now we come to the finals. This is where we take what we found in our first weighing of the “hard facts” of our monthly safety reports and put that data, which we know is minimal, on the left hand side of the scales. For simplicity’s sake we’ll call it “the difference.” Then take the staggering amount of increased citation revenue and put it on the other, which we will call the “cost.”

Is there anyone among us who can say the “difference” is worth the “cost” to those we are told we should love like ourselves? In my opinion it brings out the absolute worst in a politician to call the needle’s answer “the right thing to do.” Fleecing the unsuspecting public is hardly “safety.”

This exercise isn’t a hard thing to do. Gather the facts on your own – not from those from out of town who see this area as a gold mine of traffic scofflaws or those like me who call it wrong – and weigh it in your own scales. As you do, ask yourself why just Red Bank, of all the towns in a 50-mile radius, is the only one besides Chattanooga that uses traffic cameras for “safety.”

Go to the Internet and read the public outrage elsewhere. Google the Wall Street Journal’s story on traffic cameras. Be warned; the more research you do the less evidence you’ll find. It may well be like they say on those old police movies, “Follow the money.”

Find out why Signal Mountain’s streets have suddenly become so dangerous such dramatic steps can no longer be avoided. Is Signal Mountain suddenly plagued with such an increase in traffic “hard facts” the police force now in place can no longer control the citizens without cameras? What will the cameras take pictures of next?

After you do your own study, it will then be the time for you to remember mankind’s greatest calling is to love your neighbor as yourself. That is when, gentle pilgrim, you should look within for your answer.

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