Opponents Want Red-Light Cameras Out of Sugar Land

Sugar Land is among the cities with cameras in place above intersections to spot and punish drivers who run red lights.

It's a 75-dollar fine if you’re caught.

But as their use expands, the local opposition grows – by citizens who say the real purpose is easy revenue, not safety.

Those opponents include Helwig Van Der Grinten, a Sugar Land ship captain, who tells NewsRadio 740 KTRH that officials are “hoodwinking the public.”

Van Der Grinten -- who was once ticketed in town for missing a red light by three-tenths of a second -- says the cameras are a city ploy to grab quick revenue.

The fight has boiled over into a class-action lawsuit that claims the fines don’t follow the constitution.

The suits argues that the fines are un-enforceable and demands that fines be refunded.

Sugar Land says the red light cameras make intersections safer for drivers and pedestrians ... and have reduced the number of accidents.

The city has said, in a statement to our news partner, Channel 2:

"We have not received this lawsuit. Sugar Land’s red light camera system is an innovative use of technology that makes our intersections safer for motorists and pedestrians. The use of cameras has resulted in a reduction in accidents. The City’s red light camera system complies ith Texas law and professional engineering standards established by the state. Read more at www.sugarlandtx.gov/safelightsugarland."

However, Van Der Grinten – the founder of the Houston Coalition Against Red Light Cameras -- is among those who call for Texas lawmakers to pass a camera ban.

The frustration about red-light cameras is shared in other cities.

In Baytown, activist Byron Schirmbeck says the opposition to the practice sparked www.trashyourticket.com, a website that argues that state law doesn’t provide for the penalties and payment demands  on accused offenders.

The website details state law in that regard, and boils down its point to five words: “Never pay a camera ticket!”

“Texas law says failure to pay a Red Light Camera ticket cannot result in an arrest warrant, cannot go on your license, insurance or credit,” according the website for Schirmbeck’s group, citing Texas Transportation Code 707. “A camera ticket is a civil penalty, not a criminal penalty. This means the consequences are essentially less than a parking ticket. “

Like Van Der Grinten, Schirmbeck says uncollected fines are unenforceable.

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