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Hamilton County judge halts use of Elmwood Place speed cameras

Judge: Scam motorists can't win

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ELMWOOD PLACE, Ohio - A Hamilton County judge ruled Thursday afternoon that the village ordinance that allowed Elmwood Place to install controversial speed cameras is unenforceable and violates motorists' due process.

The ruling passed down by Judge Robert Ruehlman grants a permanent injunction and prohibits further use of the cameras.

Judge Ruehlman called the village's traffic camera system a game that Optotraffic, the company that operates the cameras, has a financial stake in.

"I used the term 'game' because Elmwood Place is engaged in nothing more than a high-tech game of 3-Card Monty," the judge wrote in his ruling. "It is a scam that the motorists can't win."

"The entire case against the motorist is stacked because the speed monitoring device is calibrated and controlled by Optotraffic," he wrote.

Judge Ruehlman pointed out that Optotraffic had already received $500,000 at the time of the January hearing on the case.

Some Elmwood Place residents were enraged after speed cameras dispensed $105 citations in the small, economically-struggling village for about six months.

Adam Price, who received two tickets in two days from the speed cameras, told 9 On Your Side reporter Bryce Anslinger Friday that the entire system was "ridiculous."

"I understand that they're short staffed, with the budgetary issues, but resorting to a camera to ticket people is kind of ridiculous," Price said.

Other residents like Scott Meirose, who received two tickets from the cameras, say the cameras were a good idea and helped keep kids in the area safe.

"You have a lot of people who are on fixed incomes, I understand that, but in the same breathe, why are you speeding through a school zone?" Meirose asked. "Slow down, it's that simple."

Optotraffic said Friday that it expects city leaders to appeal the injunction. The company said the cameras are still running, but are only traffic numbers.

Attorney Mike Allen urged Judge Ruehlman to shut down the program during a hearing in January. Allen said the cameras have generated $1.5 million for the Village of Elmwood Place and that the system is about revenue generation rather than public safety.

Since installing two traffic cameras that record vehicle speed in September, Elmwood Place has been issuing citations at a rapid pace: 6,600 in the first month, or three times the number of village residents. Elmwood Place's chief of police says the speed cameras are still operational in the village.

Allen said in January that he will consider asking that the decision be retroactive. Such a decision could mean anyone who paid a fine could receive a refund. Allen said he believes the appeals process for people who receive a ticket from the speed cameras does not allow for testimony from anyone other than the person who received the ticket.

"Judge Ruehlman's decision does not specifically address that because we didn't ask him to address that," Allen told Anslinger. "However, we are conducting research, legal research to determine what those people's options are. And if there's a remedy we want to go forward with it."

Since the cameras' installation, there have been petition drives, a councilman asking the mayor to resign, calls on Facebook and other social media to boycott the village, and a lawsuit that alleges violations of constitutional rights.

Stay with 9 On Your Side and WCPO.com for updates as they become available.

 

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