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Suffolk County Red Light Camera Vote Falls Along Party Lines

Mel Evans

Suffolk County lawmakers plan to make changes to a controversial red light camera program that was extended this week for another five years by the Democratic-controlled Legislature.

Democrats say the program was a success in reducing injury and death at intersections. Republicans call the vote irresponsible and say it doesn’t make roads safer. County Minority Leader Tom Cilmi called the program a money grab for the county. 

“The program was originally intended to be a public safety program, but that unfortunately as oftentimes happens, government got a taste of the money and has let the program completely come off the rails for which it was designed.”  

Cilmi said the county needs to find a better way to prevent collisions. 

“We believe that rather than taking photographs and video at intersections and pretending to make them safer, that we should actually have engineers look at those intersections and actually make them safer. Perhaps changing the timing of yellow lights and of the red light clearances.”

A study of the program found more collisions occurred at red light camera intersections. 

County Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory says residents see the rewards of the program, even if they don’t like paying the fines.

“They’re not bought into the conspiracy theory that the timing of the yellow lights have been changed to entrap people. I think most people respect that they made a violation. They don’t like that they have to pay a fine but can see that there are major safety benefits.”

Republicans proposed suspending the program to address the overticketing of motorists and camera placement in low-income communities.

Democrats proposed waiving administrative fees for first-time offenders and an annual review of camera locations to determine if they need to be moved.

The program was approved Wednesday night with a few improvements to address community concerns.