NAACP: Dayton traffic cameras punish poor people, ballot issue planned

The Dayton Unit NAACP is holding a town hall to discuss the pros and cons of the city’s photo enforcement cameras. Bill Lackey/Staff.

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The Dayton Unit NAACP is holding a town hall to discuss the pros and cons of the city’s photo enforcement cameras. Bill Lackey/Staff.

Dayton residents opposed to the city’s traffic enforcement cameras might have hope on the horizon in the form of a citizen referendum.

The Dayton Unit NAACP says the traffic cameras disproportionately affect poor communities in Montgomery County, and the group is holding a town hall to educate citizens about the pros and cons of the cameras.

“It’s not a white thing, it’s not a black thing, it’s a poor people’s thing,” Dayton Unit President Derrick Foward said. “If all the other local municipalities in Montgomery County had photo enforcement, it would probably not be an issue.”

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After the town hall, the local NAACP — which Foward said unanimously voted against photo enforcement cameras in meetings last year — will begin collecting signatures to put the issue on the November ballot.

The town hall will include representatives from the city speaking in support and an attorney opposed to photo enforcement.

Dayton officials say the cameras aren’t about making more money from tickets, but rather keeping people safe.

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Dayton saw a 40 percent increase in property and injury crashes between 2014 and 2016, which officials say was because of the shelving of the city’s photo enforcement program.

“We do know for a fact that this does change driving behavior, and we are looking forward to seeing a very dramatic decrease in traffic violations, which lead to pedestrian injuries and other traffic crashes,” Dayton Police Department Lt. Col. Matt Carper previously told this news organization.

Dayton’s photo enforcement cameras were recently brought back after a hiatus. The city stopped using photo enforcement in 2015 with the passage of a strict state law that required cities to station police officers at traffic cameras when they were in use. That law was ruled as unconstitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court last year.

Dayton brought back its traffic camera program last year and is currently operating fixed traffic cameras, mobile traffic camera trailers and hand-held cameras.

The city issued more than 10,000 citations to motorists between November 2017 and February 2018 using two mobile speed trailers. The amount of citations issued decreased over time.

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At the time, the trailers were parked at Riverside Drive and North James H. McGee Boulevard. At Riverside, the amount of citations decreased from 2,313 in November to just 784 in January. At McGee, the amount of citations decreased from 2,416 in November to just 806 in January.

Some Dayton drivers have expressed support for traffic camera reform.

"Maybe we need to be looking at providing better resources so our officers can be present … when those people are making those violations," Dayton resident Seth Baughton previously told this publication.

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Foward, who said he’s never received a ticket from a photo enforcement camera, praised the Dayton Police Department’s traffic analysis and action on traffic safety, but he said the city should use stationed police officers at high-traffic times instead of photo enforcement cameras around the clock.

Any Dayton resident is welcome to attend the town hall, which will be held at the Dayton Boys Prep Academy at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, May 21.

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