Council voted 6-1 to adopt Ordinance 13-02 authorizing the use of automated red light enforcement systems, or red light cameras, in Norristown at its Monday, Jan. 7 meeting.
The state legislature passed a bill in June giving certain Montgomery County municipalities the option to adopt the practice and council discussed the issue at a Dec. 18 meeting where it decided to move forward with the project on the recommendation of the Public Safety Committee and the Norristown Police Department.
Intersections suggested for possible red light camera deployment include Markley and Main streets, West Main Street and Forrest Avenue and West Main Street and Haws Avenue. The final determination would be made by council with recommendations made by the police department. There would reportedly be no cost to the municipality to install the cameras.
Councilman Dwayne Royster, who voted against the ordinance on Monday night, expressed his reservations about red light cameras at the Dec. 18 council meeting where he admitted that his oppositions stemmed from an incident where he was issued a ticket for going through a red light in Philadelphia during a funeral procession.
"I tried to appeal," said Royster. "And the appeals process didn't allow for that to enter into the decision."
Royster expressed concern that the cameras don't allow for such exceptions.
"There are those moments when exceptions need to be made," he said. "How are we going to allow for that considering our justice system?"
Chief Bono assured Royster that his Philadelphia experience would not necessarily be recreated here.
"We actually tell [the company that manages the cameras] what we want to enforce," said Chief Bono. If we don't want information on funerals or police cars going through red lights or people making right hand turns on red, that's solely up to us."
Chief Bono noted that the company would send the data to the Norristown Police Department and an officer assigned to that duty would make the final determination about who to cite for the offense.
Chief Bono noted that the cameras would not photograph the vehicle from the front, only the from the rear as dictated by Pennsylvania law. The occupants of the vehicle would not be identified from the pictures.
Councilwoman Dr. Mary DeSouza expressed her support for the cameras as a way to make certain accident-prone intersections safer.
"I think people can remember just in the recent past the accidents that have happened at Main and Markley, even hitting our own fire vehicles" said DeSouza. "People disregard the speed coming off the Dannehower Bridge and that there's a light at the end of that. If a few people getting tickets for doing an unlawful thing can slow people down... and prevent more accidents, I'm all for it."
Royster, unswayed by the argument, still voted against adopting the ordinance.
"I voted against the red light cameras because I believe that this is totalitarianism and that 'Big Brother' is looking out over us," said Royster. "And I don't have an appreciation for it."
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