Hoboken has go-ahead for 'gotcha' cam signs

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Hoboken has go-ahead for 'gotcha' cam signs

January 17, 2008 Jersey Journal

HOBOKEN - A new state law has given a green light to the city's plan to install two traffic cameras to catch drivers cruising through stop signs.

Hoboken has always maintained that the cameras would be legal, but the law, signed by Gov. Jon Corzine this week, removes any lingering doubts, said Hoboken Corporation Counsel Steven Kleinman.

"It's clear that these are now expressly permitted by law," he said of the law that allows municipalities to install cameras at traffic signals.

When use of the cameras was authorized by City Council in November, there was some concern that they would violate a New Jersey state law that banned using radar detectors to catch speeders, said Kleinman, who stressed that law never applied to the stop-sign cameras.

"If you read that law, it has nothing to do with what we were trying to do," he said.

But the new law complicates, as well as clarifies, said Kleinman, because Hoboken now needs to work with state officials to make sure there's nothing in its procedure that conflicts with the state legislation.

"It's not a question of if, it's a question of how," he said.

Public Safety Director Bill Bergin said the cameras will be equipped with sensors that will track whether drivers pause at stop signs for a full 3 seconds. When a driver moves on too quickly, the camera will be activated to snap a photo of the license plate. A police officer will later review the photos and send out tickets.

It was decided to put the cameras at stop signs instead of red lights because drivers who cruise through stop signs are a much bigger problem than those failing to stop at red lights, said Bergin.

Police still have to decide where to put the cameras and whether to notify the public of the locations when they do, said Bergin.

He added that he's pleased that the cameras will soon be installed. "Anything that's going to make it safer for the people in town, the children especially, crossing those streets, I would be 100 percent in favor of," he said.

Assemblywoman Joan Quigley, who pushed for the state law, agreed.

"I think the knowledge that there are cameras makes people drive better," she said.

Initially there was some concern in Trenton that the law would violate drivers' civil rights, Quigley said, but those concerns were addressed by stipulating that only the license plate, and not the driver or passenger are photographed.

The cameras, which cost $74,541 and will come out of capital funds, were ordered in July, said Business Administrator Richard England, but they have not arrived yet, and will not be paid for until they do. In November, England had said the cameras already had been installed.

Neither England nor Public Safety Director Bill Bergin could say when the cameras would arrive.

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