SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – The Borough Council voted unanimously on Tuesday to ask the State Department of Transportation (DOT) to force Piscataway to take down its red light cameras near the border of the two towns.
The move comes after an analysis by The Alternative Press of South Plainfield found that crashes in the borough are up 50 percent within 100 feet of the intersections that have the devices.
Snared drivers face an $85 fine, with the proceeds split between Piscataway and Middlesex County. Yet advocates say the cameras reduce accidents and are not there to boost ticket revenue.
Council President Ray Rusnak disagreed. “When people say it’s not about the money that is when you know it’s all about the money,” Rusnak said.
According to Rusnak, Piscataway’s decision to install the cameras had nothing to do with safety. “We met with Piscataway when the idea was originally floated, and safety never came up during the meeting,” Rusnak said. “It was all about money. We decided South Plainfield should not participate.”
State Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon (R-Red Bank) is one of the leading opponents of red light cameras in New Jersey. O’Scanlon attended Tuesday’s meeting and commended the council’s decision, saying that South Plainfield was leading the way for other towns. “You are the first governing body to take this action,” he said.
O’Scanlon said the cameras “trap people into breaking unreasonable rules.” The yellow lights are typically shorter than they should be, O’Scanlon told the audience. “There are not enough people (for the companies to make a profit) if the yellow lights are timed properly.”
“They don’t care about safety,” O’Scanlon said, referring to the companies that run the camera systems.
The council’s decision to ask the DOT to remove the cameras has generated debate statewide, with Anesh appearing on several television and radio news segments explaining why he wants the cameras gone. Anesh has this to say to The Alternative Press of South Plainfield:
In addition, O’Scanlon has set up an online petition where people can urge lawmakers to ban the devices. O’Scanlon’s petition can be found at: http://www.change.org/petitions/new-jersey-department-of-transportation-end-the-red-light-camera-program-in-nj
Yet, according to O’Scanlon, New Jersey is only just starting to realize what other states have already found out—that the cameras don’t improve safety. “Scores of municipalities across the country have kicked them out,” he said.
Piscataway Mayor Brian Wahler did not return a request for comment by The Alternative Press of South Plainfield, but he called the issue “political” during an interview with another news outlet on Tuesday.
Yet the council’s decision was a bipartisan one, with lone Democratic Councilman C.J. Diana agreeing with his Republican colleagues. Diana said he has “long been opposed to the red light camera installations and is proud to vote in favor of the request to have these cameras removed from the borough’s boundaries.” In addition, he believes that the project hasn’t live up to its goal, which was to improve public safety. Diana stated he “support(s) the local bipartisan effort to have these cameras removed and further support(s) the expiration of this program throughout the state.”
Assemblyman Patrick J. Diegnan (D-South Plainfield) also came out against the devices, pledging his support in getting them removed. Diegnan also said he would vote against reauthorizing the cameras when the legislation comes up in 2014.