No red-light camera violations are reviewed by the Missouri Department of Revenue for points assessment, according to documents provided by Arnold City Administrator Matt Unrein and City Attorney Bob Sweeney.
Red-light camera systems operate at four Arnold intersections and record drivers who enter an intersection after a light is red. Photos and video recordings capture the cars’ movement and location for the duration of the red light.
The Department of Revenue, by state law, assesses points to drivers with moving violations. The department’s website has a list of driving violations and the points assessed on Form 899.
Red-light camera violations are assessed no points, the document stated. The statement appears, in bold font, at the bottom of the first page of the state document.
The City of Arnold’s ordinance matches the state law, the men said.
“State laws allow cities to have the local control and the flexibility to enforce the laws,” Sweeney said during an interview at City Hall Tuesday morning.
As the city attorney, Sweeney’s role is to assure that Arnold’s ordinances comply with state, county and federal laws. Unrein’s role is to determine whether the city has the staff and resources to implement an ordinance.
The state laws, agencies and the state attorney general decided red-light camera violations are civil violations instead of criminal violations, Sweeney said.
Criminal violations, by the U.S. Constitution’s Sixth Amendment, have a higher evidence standard due the accused violators’ rights to a trail, Sweeney said.
“We discussed the various problems—legal, implementation, and political—of the systems for a long time,” Sweeney said about the council members and staffers.
The purpose of Arnold’s ordinance is to change drivers’ behavior which increases the risk of fatalities or debilitating injures that occur when cars’ front ends strike the doors of other cars, Unrein said.
Two cars, both moving at 30 mph, and striking front end to passenger door can cause a lot of trauma and damage, Unrien said.
Both Unrein and Sweeney said they would prefer to see a 15 mph bumper-to-bumper wreck than a fatal car wreck on Arnold’s city streets.
Bumper-to-bumper wrecks rarely cause fatal injuries Unrein said.
Arnold’s ordinance is the least intrusive way to increase safety and law enforcement without endangering an Arnold police officer, Unrein said.
“A single police officer cannot safely monitor and enforce all six lanes, in both directions of traffic,” Unrein said about the intersections of Route 141 and Astraway or Rte. 141 and Jeffco Boulevard.
Arnold also faces the difficulty of finding and hiring high-quality police officers, Unrein said. Arnold must complete with higher paying departments in and around St. Louis County.
The cameras also catch every violation, he said.
Two Arnold police officers review the photos and videos to determine whether something or someone forced the drivers into the intersections, Unrein said. The officers review the photos at police headquarters.
The increase in red-light violations, to about 9,500 last year from about 4,900 in 2006, is likely due to the increased number of drivers at the intersections, the men said.
“The Arnold Recreation Center, the community college and the library were not fully open yet,” Sweeney said about the community services available at the intersection of Astraway and Rte. 141.
The Arnold Recreation Center opened in 2005, Parks and Recreation Center Director Susie Boone said.
The development of Arnold Commons at the intersection of Rte. 141 and Big Bill Road and the presence of Dierbergs grocery store and other major retailers have increased the number of drivers, and violators, in the city streets, the men said.
Many people forget the systems are the result of a 10-year-old girl, Kayla Tremeear, who died in a car wreck at Rte. 141 and Jeffco Boulevard in 2002, Sweeney said.
No one has died in or from a car wreck in Arnold since the systems were installed, Sweeney and Unein said.
“As for revenue, it’s perfectly fine for law breakers to pay for police protection, filling in potholes and snow removal,” Unrein said.
Revenue from law breakers eases the burden on tax payers, Unrein said.