Hoboken likes'em, but stop light cams may be lawbreakers

Hoboken likes'em, but stop light cams may be lawbreakers
Wednesday, November 14, 2007 Jersey Journal

With two cameras ready to capture dangerous drivers cruising through Hoboken stop signs, a city ordinance authorizing their use may conflict with state law.

The City Council voted unanimously to approve the "automated red light and stop sign equipment" last Wednesday, but the state Attorney General's Office said yesterday that photographic equipment can't be used to issue traffic violations.

A bill is currently making its way through the state Legislature to allow traffic cameras, but until it is signed into law, it is illegal to use the cameras for ticketing, Attorney General's Office spokesman David Wald said.

A law that was passed in 1992 to prohibit "speeding" cameras also covers images used to catch other traffic violations, Wald said.

Hoboken officials disagree, and plan to speak with the Attorney General's Office.

"Our lawyers have looked at this and in their view, they are not the same," Mayor David Roberts said.

Business Administrator Richard England said that two cameras were purchased in July from capital funds and installed at a cost of $74,541.

Police Chief Carmen LaBruno said the two cameras have been installed at stop signs at "high-volume intersections" as a pilot program, and will provide an image of the driver and the vehicle's license plate. The cameras will record continuously and will be reviewed by a police officer to determine who has failed to obey a stop sign. He said that future cameras installed at traffic lights would likely be triggered by a red light.

The state Senate bill would require the Department of Transportation commissioner to establish a pilot program for "traffic control signal monitoring systems" in no more than two municipalities in the state. The bill also calls for signs to be posted at the intersections alerting drivers of the cameras.

The other bill in the Assembly would legalize a photo-radar system for enforcing speed limits. Assemblywoman Joan Quigley, who co-sponsored the Assembly bill, doubts either bill will pass through both houses before the end of the legislative session on Jan. 7. In that case, both bills would die.

William Visser, the spokesman for AAA's North Jersey office, said his organization supports stop light cameras for vehicular safety in principle, but has concerns about how drivers can effectively fight a ticket when they may not even remember the alleged infraction. Visser added that AAA believes a police officer issuing a ticket in person is a more effective deterrent.

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