NAACP targets traffic cameras. City says: ‘We have a speeding problem in Dayton’

Proponents of Dayton’s traffic enforcement cameras say they make driving safer, but opponents say they disproportionately affect poor communities.

Dayton residents heard from both sides at a town hall meeting hosted by the Dayton Unit NAACP on Monday night.

Dayton Police Department Assistant Chief Matt Carper said the cameras improve safety around the city, citing decreases in traffic violations at locations where the city installs red light and speed cameras.

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“We all have an obligation to improve public safety. If we know that there’s … a technology out there that is proven to slow drivers down and reduce crashes, how can we not use that?” Carper said.

Cincinnati-based Attorney Christopher Finney said the cameras aren’t about improving safety, but rather generating revenue for the city and the company that operates the cameras.

“These things are about profiteering on the backs of urban citizens, the people who can least afford it now become an ATM, not just for the city, but for the red light camera company,” Finney said.

Carper said 25 percent of the revenue generated by the cameras goes to the company that operates them. He said there are a variety of steps taken before a ticket is issued, including a review of the citation by both the company and Dayton’s photo enforcement officers.

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Finney said that despite the review process, the ticketing violates due process.

“Where are you in that process where they review it?” Finney asked. “You’re not there.”

Citizens can appeal their ticket without paying bond, Carper said, adding that 30 percent of people who appealed their tickets had them overturned.

Dayton brought back its photo enforcement program last year after a brief hiatus. The program was shuttered in 2015 with the passage of a law that required officers to be present when traffic cameras were in operation.

Carper said traffic incidents increased dramatically when the program was shelved, with a more than 218 percent increase in red light violations in areas where the cameras weren’t issuing citations anymore.

“We have a speeding problem in Dayton,” Carper said.

The Dayton Unit NAACP voted unanimously to put the issue on the ballot, President Derrick Foward said. The group will now begin collecting signatures to put the issue on the November ballot.

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