The City of Hazelwood has been named in a class-action lawsuit about the use of the red-light cameras.
Ryan Keane and John Campbell of Simon Law Firm filed against Hazelwood on behalf of St. Louis County residents Mark and Juliet Tolman and Dana Hunter, all of whom got red-light tickets in Hazelwood.
The suit also charges the ordinance creates a presumption of guilt, which is unconstitutional. It states the ordinance places the burden of proof on vehicle owners, because the ticket is assigned to the registered owner. The camera is not designed to take images of the faces of occupants of a ticketed motor vehicle.
Keane and Campbell have also filed seperate suits against the cities of Florissant, Creve Coeur, Ellisville, Arnold and Kansas City, MO.
Hazelwood Patch reached out to Hazelwood city attorney Kevin O'Keefe after the Sept. 21 city council meeting, who at the time said he could not comment on the matter.
"I heard that it (the lawsuit) is out there," he said. "I haven't seen it yet."
Following Wednesday's Hazelwood City Council meeting, O'Keefe said the city still had not been served with the suit papers.
Suit drives home several points
Hazelwood City Council approved renewal of its red-light camera contract with MoDOT May 18. That contract is for existing red-light enforcement cameras on state routes within city limits. MoDOT released a study that said the cameras prove effective in reducing accidents at intersections with traffic lights.
Hazelwood has 15 red-light cameras at various intersections, Hazelwood Police Chief Carl Wolf said.
Wolf is named in the lawsuit, and the attorneys argue that ATS also formed two nonprofit organizations that "bill themselves as grassroots citizens' movements" but are really under the control of the red-light vendor.
Wolf heads one of the organizations, Missouri Families for Safer Roads. The suit claims he is the only officer registered to the organization in its 2010 annual registration report.
Wolf has also advocated for the second organization, National Coalition for Safer Roads (NCSR), which promotes the use of red-light cameras in Missouri. Last year, NCSR began running public service announcements in Missouri encouraging public support of the red-light cameras. In September, Fox 2 Now St. Louis reported that the directors listed on NCSR's incorporation paperwork in Missouri are all tied to ATS.
Wolf said he could not comment on the claims in the lawsuit because he has not seen it.
A matter of safety
In previous interviews, Wolf said the red-light cameras help to diminish traffic accidents in some of the busier sections of Hazelwood. He noted that Hazelwood has seen a 58 percent decrease in violations and a 20 percent reduction in accidents at those intersections since the cameras were installed.
“The whole idea is to change the habits of drivers who violate the red lights or who speed and to make the roadways safer,” he said in March, when MoDOT changed the policy requiring municipalities using the cameras to submit a report with the number of citations issued for each camera. “The cameras in Hazelwood have done just that.”
Wolf also said at that time the Hazelwood Police Department devotes many hours to reviewing the videos before issuing the citations.
"It’s all part of the job, just like traditional enforcement," he said.