North-County Municipalities Hide Speed Cameras Inside Generic-Looking Utility Boxes

speed_camera_1.jpg
Chad Garrison
A speed camera along Page Avenue in Vinita Park.
You know that unassuming roadside box you just drove past? The one that looks like an AT&T U-verse box? Bad news: It just snapped a picture of you doing 40 m.p.h. in a 30. Expect a $100 ticket in the mail soon.

The boxes began going up over the last few months throughout north St. Louis county, with tiny Vinita Park (pop. 1,800) being one of the latest municipalities to get the devices. Vinita Park has three of the cameras and -- like most every similar device in operation in St. Louis County -- all three violate Missouri policy on speed cameras.

Vinita Park's cameras don't have warning signs as required by the Missouri Department of Transportation and are not within established school, safety or work zones -- the only three areas where MoDOT approves the use of such cameras.

So, how do municipalities like Vinita Park and Country Club Hills get away with the cameras hidden inside utility boxes?

speed_camera_2.jpg
No sign warns motorists on Midland Boulevard that this benign-looking box is actually a speed camera.
"The problem is there is no state law on these cameras," explains Tom Blair, MoDOT's assistant district engineer for St. Louis. "It has been requested that MoDOT establish a policy on automated enforcement, but our policy is just that: a policy."

Blair says MoDOT recently inspected the cameras installed this fall in Vinita Park (two are located along Page Avenue; another is along Midland Boulevard across the border from Overland) and determined that the boxes sit outside of MoDOT right-of-way. Blair calls the cameras housed in utility boxes the "latest fad" in automated speed monitoring, which arrived to St. Louis in 2010 with the city of St. Ann using a mobile camera attached to a trailer. St. Louis County Police Chief Tim Fitch has a harsher assessment of the cameras designed to look like utility boxes: He refers to them as nothing more than deceptive speed traps.

See also: Speed Cameras Arrive in St. Louis

"The boxes are clearly designed to hide these cameras," says Fitch, who recently teed off on the cameras on his blog, writing: "I'm a little surprised they haven't designed one that looks like a tree or a flag pole. The first time you'll realize a camera is there, is when the ticket comes in the mail."

Continue on for Fitch's unconventional advice on what to do with speed-camera citations and reaction from Vinita Park's mayor.


My Voice Nation Help
50 comments
jefferi79
jefferi79

If this had anything to do with public safety, instead of a cash grab, you would have due process served, and receive a citation at the time of the infraction. Not a month, or sometimes longer after the fact. 

If you're naive enough to think this is anything other than a revenue generator, consider that these dangerous drivers who could according to you, take someones life by their careless behavior behind the wheel, will go 30 days or more before receiving any penalty for driving too fast. 

Until these things are legally enforceable, I say shred em.  

Kelle Deyne
Kelle Deyne

The cameras also catch people breaking the law. You speed- you get a ticket. Solve the problem.... Don't speed. Cameras also are more affordable than hiring more officers for monitoring traffic law, and keep them available for more high risk crimes and safety. Speeding is dangerous. As the article states... Speed limits are posted everywhere! That should be efficient for letting drivers know that if you don't follow the limit- you're going to get a ticket. And that rule applies throughout the United States... However they catch you!!

Kelle Deyne
Kelle Deyne

There is nothing scary about north county. I grew up in Florissant and go back frequently for doctors appointments, friends, family and for my favorite restaurants. Not every single place in St. Louis county is how some of you speak of it!!! Red light cameras are all over the country- they are on just about every light in st.charles county also. North county (particularly Florissant area) is one of the safest places to live. Check crime rates. You'd be surprised.... I think some of you are getting the st.louis city limits confused with the county.....get out and live a little outside your zip code!!

stephenjrobin
stephenjrobin

While I understand the wrath expressed by some people over the 'secret' nature of the speed cameras, they have been shown throughout the world to make a difference to safety, gas consumption, and travel time. In the UK when they introduced them on the M23 highway ring road around London, people cried foul until the number of accidents and peoples commute times both dropped. Now when you join that highway at 55 mph, drive around London to your exit at 55 mph, and leave the ring road, all safely and quicker than when you drove faster for a few seconds and then 'bunched up' for many minutes, people are really appreciating it. Some people have cut more then fifteen minutes off their commutes just because of driving slower. Strange but true. In municipalities where these are being used, the number of accidents is lower, people are safer. Just because you have a vehicle that can drive at 100 mph does not mean that it is safe to do so. Residential areas, which most of North County is, have lower speed limits for a reason. Children and older people live there. Just one life saved justifies this action, and lower not higher speed limits should be the norm. Nobody skirts the law by placing the cameras and sending out tickets. The recipient can decide whether they want to skirt the law or not, that's their choice, misguided or not. Maybe its time for Tim Fitch to ask for them to placed along all highways, particularly I-270, I-170, I-55, I-44, to slow down the people who think that just because they are on a highway they can race in and out of traffic, weave dangerously all over the road, scare other motorists, and basically break every traffic law in the book and get away with it because Tim Fitch doesn't care. As a senior law enforcement officer for the county his action and comments are disgraceful and he should either uphold the law or resign.

Ðan Koester
Ðan Koester

Ironic how they are skirting the law in order to catch criminals.

Clayton Prater
Clayton Prater

Just take a hammer to the lens when you see it. Make it cost them money.

Jeff Buydos
Jeff Buydos

I guess it can still be entrapment if you entrap yourself by going there...

Sisyphus Wobbly
Sisyphus Wobbly

North County is not a bad place to live. It shows how little you know of the area Steve Mincer. What wonderful neighborhood do you live in? Apparently a completely crime free utopia. Get educated about the neighborhoods in our area before you start talking about something you know nothing about.

Steve Mincer
Steve Mincer

you been through north county? you want to get the hell out of there as fast as possible.

Steve Dixon
Steve Dixon

Its not entrapment. What it is though is a money-grab. Anyone who thinks this is about public safety is naive. If it were about public safety there would be signs up stating there are cameras present to get people to slow down through the areas. Instead they rely on ambush tactics to generate revenue for their hamlet.

Jeff Buydos
Jeff Buydos

It's not entrapment unless someone is coercing you into speeding.

Steve Mincer
Steve Mincer

wait...hold on...i thought it was rich people that were greedy.

Ryan Masters
Ryan Masters

Can someone give me the legal definition of "entrapment"? I'm assuming I don't know the true meaning of the word. I thought hiding cameras like that was illegal?

Sigrid Graham
Sigrid Graham

Well, this is Illinois, they think they are doing the right thing, after all, they are getting paid for the jobb

Steve Crain
Steve Crain

I wonder if people stop speeding and running red lights those cameras wouldn't be there. Hmm

Brian Shields
Brian Shields

When people see the signs for speed traps, they slow down just for that area and speed up when they're out of that area. But, with this element of surprise, it forces them to drive the speed limit everywhere.

Bruce A. King
Bruce A. King

Somebody hitch a truck to 'em and use them fer game cameras. Yeee haw

Steve Dixon
Steve Dixon

If this was really about getting people to slow down they would put signs up alerting you to the cameras presence.

Barbara Ann Martchink
Barbara Ann Martchink

Don't see any warning signs on any of them- beware the white truck always there bridge hway 67- Bellefontaine Neighbors- Moline- big camera on pole telescopic lense

Lanie Dattilo
Lanie Dattilo

So what is your answer to this? It would seem common sense dictates don't speed in the first place.

Amber Ibn Iblis Mueller
Amber Ibn Iblis Mueller

The failed municipalities that comprise North County need to be unincorporated. They are all failed "states".

Ricky Jinkens
Ricky Jinkens

we have planted the seed, now lets watch it grow LOL

Steve Dixon
Steve Dixon

Or comes by with a can of spray paint

Steve Dixon
Steve Dixon

Funny you should bring up red light cameras when all of the studies show they actually make intersections MORE dangerous. Not less.

Jim Ploudre
Jim Ploudre

Racist speed cams, you won't find those in Clayton or Ladue

Ricky Jinkens
Ricky Jinkens

I wonder what happens when someone walks by and puts a piece of black/duct tape over the opening LOL

Jennifer OHearn
Jennifer OHearn

These small time municipalities in North County need to get on working on real crime cases and improving the image of North County already instead of playing revenue games.

Lanie Dattilo
Lanie Dattilo

Gee speeding and trying to run red lights and such does kill people if you hit another car hard enough. Seriously...there are speed limits so people don't get hurt Of course these are about making money when a cop isn't present but it's not hard to not get in trouble....just don't do it.

jealousblues
jealousblues

how about we get rid of all these useless municipalities

Ajax Talbot
Ajax Talbot

We had a little burg (pop. 60) in my fair city that apparently existed to justify speed traps on US 40 and one major arterial road. After a scheissturm of media attention and establishment of massive corruption, the Court of Common Pleas dissolved the village and incorporated it and all its assets into the township.

Steve Dixon
Steve Dixon

You are so naive if you think these are actually about saving lives.

Steve Dixon
Steve Dixon

Yay! More revenue for these backwater municipalities! *rolls eyes*

Lanie Dattilo
Lanie Dattilo

It would seem the obvious solution is don't speed and endanger lives. DUH.

chica2270
chica2270

At the very least, it should be required that they are accompanied by one of those speed monitor signs that tell the driver the speed they are going.

donaldson1
donaldson1

Here is how one UK town LIED with statistics to:  http://www.thenewspaper.com/news/05/538.asp

Quote:  UK: Speed Camera Officials Caught Lying with Statistics
Officials claim an impossible reduction in accidents from the use of speed cameras.

The Wiltshire and Swindon Safety Camera Partnership claims that three months of speed camera usage on the M4 highway in the UK has slashed serious road accidents by 64 percent. "This dramatic reduction in crashes is as a direct result of our strategy to enforce the national speed limit on this section of the motorway, no other changes have been made to slow traffic down or to make the road any safer," explained David Frampton, the Project Manager for the camera partnership.

That sounds like a significant benefit, except road safety experts say the camera officials are lying. "There is absolutely no mechanism by which their claims could be true," said Paul Smith, founder of the Safe Speed road safety campaign.

The Association of British Drivers (ABD) fought with the camera partnership for release of crash data under the Freedom of Information Act. According to the documents, the crashes cited in the formal justification for the placement of cameras on the M4 include:

  • an accident where a pedestrian fell from a bridge
  • an accident where a gust of wind pushed one truck into another
  • several tire blowout accidents
  • a crash where a car drove the wrong way

According to Smith, the accident data show that only about four percent of accidents on the M4 were actually caused by exceeding a posted limit. The documents rated the most and least important contributory factors as a percentage of accidents on the M4, as follows:

  1. Inattention: 28%
  2. Failure to judge others' path or speed (i.e. poor lane-changing): 28%
  3. Lack of judgment of own path: 17%
  4. Fatigue: 14%
  5. Careless, thoughtless or reckless behavior:14%
  6. Excess speed for conditions: 14%
  7. Exceeding posted speed limit: 4.2% (SafeSpeed estimate)

"I would very much like to hear the Camera Partnership explain exactly how it is supposed to be possible that their cameras reduced crashes by over sixty percent when only about four percent of crashes involved exceeding a speed limit," Smith said. "It does not make sense."

"This data -- now we've forced it into the public domain -- raises very serious questions about the use of speed cameras on the M4," said ABD road safety spokesman Mark McArthur-Christie. "It also raises questions about why the data has not been made public before."

donaldson1
donaldson1

Make no mistake, these speed scaemras are NOT about safety.

Notice that in their "claims" of safety, THEY NEVER do want to mention how many crashes were CAUSED by exceeding the speed limit.

Want to know how many really are US wide:

http://www.thenewspaper.com/news/38/3801.asp

Quote:  "Out of 2.7 million traffic accidents recorded in twenty-five states over the course of a year, only 1.6 percent were caused by drivers who exceeded the posted speed limit."

IT IS TIME THAT THE MO LEGISLATURE BAN THE SPEED CAMERAS!  OH IS:  http://www.thenewspaper.com/news/41/4138.asp

www.motorists.org

www.banthecams.org

camerafraud on Facebook

By the way ONE MO court already has ruled that the speed cameras "tickets" are NOT LEGAL!  http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/judge-voids-speed-camera-ticket-for-charlie-brennan-citing-invalid/article_db78be21-c55b-5b4d-aee8-48631f26d9fa.html  Quote:  In her ruling, Schroeder pointed out the obvious problem in trying to bring speed cameras in line with that decision, writing: “It would seem impossible and a violation of the laws of physics to have speed without motion.”

Translation, the CITIES ARE BREAKING THE LAW BY USE OF "ORDINANCES" circumventing STATE LAW!  As one Chief has already stated, SHRED THE TICKETS, DO NOT PAY THEM!

rexr1960
rexr1960

@stephenjrobin Your comments on reduced accident rates, commute times and citizenry acceptance are entirely mythological!!  Every non-biased study has proven that accident rates increase at red-light-camera locations.  Also, the USDOT 85% formula for setting speed limits is often ignored as municipalities want unreasonable speed limits to generate revenue.  The FACTS are irrefutable, yet people like Stephen chose to cling to the myths and emotional BS camera manufacturers and power hungry politicians create.  Notice the Vinita Park Mayor claims a person was killed on Page Av., that the "victim's" family was appreciative, yet could not come up with a name or date for this....Why?  Because it is a load of crap!!!  A story created to bring out emotions that overshadow the truth.

Truth
Truth

@Brian Shields No it doesn't..

victoria.valle
victoria.valle

@Brian Shields No it doesn't.  It does not take long to figure out where they are.

victoria.valle
victoria.valle

@Suzanne Lorenz Seibel They take pictures, so ethnicity is clearly visible.

zoomjz
zoomjz

@Lanie Dattilo The issue is that often, the speed limits are set below what they ought to be.  Same with the red light cameras, often times the yellow lights are set shorter than they should be to increase the number of tickets issued.

victoria.valle
victoria.valle

@Midnightfield Djtuckster I live in a North County municipality.  Police speed all the time on the same roads that have lowered speed limits that change from municipality to municipality.  It would be great if the intent were to keep people safe, but I think that unmanned speed camera are just revenue generators

rexr1960
rexr1960

Lanie, great sentiment, yet exceptionally naïve.  Speed limits are set low by municipalities for one reason, revenue.  Safety is the excuse!  The USDOT 85% formula is completely ignored and is proven to be the safest way to establish a "speed limit".  It is excruciatingly simple too!  A speed is established by NOT setting a speed limit, observing traffic and the speed of 85% of drivers is the SAFEST speed for that road!  When you see "accident reduction" claims made by municipalities, the ALWAYS compare accidents from winter months (ice conditions) to summer months (dry road conditions).  The "reductions" are total fabrications.

Now Trending

St. Louis Concert Tickets

From the Vault

 

General

Loading...