Huge Crowd for Debate About Red Light Cameras in Miami

City commissioners are weighing whether Miami's program should stay on hiatus or resume

By Willard Shepard
|  Friday, Jul 12, 2013  |  Updated 12:10 AM EDT
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A huge crowd gathered at the Miami City Council chambers Thursday to discuss whether red light cameras should stay on hiatus. NBC 6's Willard Shepard reports.

A huge crowd gathered at the Miami City Council chambers Thursday to discuss whether red light cameras should stay on hiatus. NBC 6's Willard Shepard reports.

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A huge crowd gathered at the Miami City Council chambers Thursday to discuss whether red light cameras should stay on hiatus.

Supporters of the cameras say the cameras have changed they way they drive, while police say they help solve crime, but opponents worry about government intrusion and how the appeals process would affect citizens.

Police say cameras in Miami at intersections catch red light runners. The 153 cameras in Miami are located at 98 intersections and officers say the videos show that time after time, drivers going through the red lights. The Miami program was suspended when a new state law required the city to set up its own appeal process for anyone who gets a ticket.

Citizens and experts from both sides of the debate jammed inside the commission chamber Thursday morning to present their arguments. Among them were members of the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, a charity has received about $4 million in donations from red light camera tickets. They told commissioners the cameras are needed to stop accidents.

President Marc Buoniconti stressed, "We need this program because it saves lives. And it keeps people out of wheelchairs."

Fewer Accidents at Red Light Camera Intersections: Authorities

The top brass from Miami Police, Manuel Orosa, said the cameras free up officers to do more important police work and the images also help solve violent crimes, including one murder.

"In the city of Miami we have reduced accidents by a lot and it translates into free officers,” Orosa said.

Opponents in the audience told commissioners one concern was whether those who get tickets would get a fair appeal.

"I don't think it's due process at all and I have always had a problem with it because of that,” citizen Seth Sklarew argued.

The city administration's plan is have the appeal hearings held in the commission chambers three days a week.

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City Commissioner Frank Carollo worries about adding another layer of government.

”It’s about possibly adding a new level of bureaucracy – a full-time level of bureaucracy,” he said.

City Commissioner Francis Suarez says he's all for safety but worries, "It’s in areas that are designated as poor areas in the city of Miami. Ninety-five percent of our cameras touch an area of poverty."

He said he believes there are other ways to increase safety without costing citizens.

Commissioners decided to defer their decision on the matter until July 25.

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