I see the 10th Street connector is nearing completion. Another three years to paint the lines and we will be on our way,...

Cameras already a failed experiment


A red light camera at the intersection of Greenville and Arlington boulevards.


Monday, December 11, 2017

Before the first fine was issued, a controversial red light camera scheme had already begun causing legal headaches for the city of Greenville.

Automated traffic enforcement cameras began generating $100 civil citations Wednesday following a 30-day warning period, but on Sept. 26, Greenville resident William Kozel sued the city and the Pitt County Board of Education, claiming the program violates North Carolina’s state constitution.

Article IX, Section 7 of the N.C. Constitution requires that the “clear proceeds” of all penalties, forfeitures and fines collected by local governments “shall be faithfully appropriated and used exclusively for maintaining free public schools.” Courts have held that at least 90 percent of fines such as those generated by traffic cameras must be given to school systems in order to meet the “clear proceeds” standard.

Kozel said Pitt County Schools will be shortchanged so American Traffic Systems can take its cut of the action. Installing red light cameras at five Greenville intersections comes at a cost of roughly $2.5 million.

A three-judge N.C. Court of Appeals panel ruled in 2006 that the city of High Point violated the state constitution by deducting traffic camera operators’ payout from fine proceeds and giving the remainder to the schools.

Kozel’s suit contends Greenville is trying to skirt the case law by turning the money over to Pitt County Schools and making it pay American Traffic Systems.

“This is a distinction without a difference constitutionally,” the lawsuit states.

A plain reading of the N.C. Constitution suggests Kozel is right. Fines must be “appropriated and used exclusively for maintaining free public schools.” Appropriating money for one purpose and using it for another fails the test. Under this disingenuous arrangement, the law is broken in both letter and spirit.

Kozel’s attorney is Paul “Skip” Stam, who served as N.C. House speaker pro-tem before retiring from the legislature last year. His familiarity with the state constitution and laws would make him a formidable adversary. If the city of Greenville is smart, it won’t let this case get anywhere near a courtroom.

The lawsuit also says the cameras, in conjunction with the timed traffic signals, fail to give motorists adequate time to stop at yellow lights and avoid crossing the intersection and paying through the nose.

Greenville has broken the law, the civil complaint contents, “by creating an offense for which a penalty may be assessed that is contrary to the immutable laws of physics.”

The Wilson Times opposes red light cameras for a simpler reason — they catch cars rather than drivers. The robocams capture images of taillights and license plates. Tickets are mailed to vehicles’ registered owners regardless of who was behind the wheel.

Many motorists share family cars with spouses and children, and in a college town like Greenville, letting a roommate or significant other borrow the keys certainly isn’t unheard of.

City officials say there’s a process for owners to transfer responsibility by snitching on the guilty party. The whole unseemly enterprise flips due process and the presumption of innocence on its head.

Faulkner University law professor Adam J. MacLeod successfully challenged an Alabama speed enforcement camera citation last year by arguing that the police officer who signed his ticket committed perjury because he didn’t witness the offense and had no evidence against MacLeod — just a picture of his car.

Would similar arguments persuade North Carolina judges? After all, Greenville police officers are asked to sign tickets accusing individuals of civil infractions when the evidence they have implicates machines, not people. A retired police sergeant we know and trust calls the whole thing a “scam.”

If the Greenville City Council wants to step up traffic enforcement, it should allow police to do so without cutting corners. Officers can monitor problem intersections with marked and unmarked cars, pull over vehicles that run red lights and ticket the actual drivers who break the law.

It’s time to pull the plug on red light robocams. Leaving them installed means Greenville taxpayers will be forced to foot the bill for court battles the city is likely to lose.

From The Wilson Times. An editorial in support of red-light cameras from The Daily Reflector was published Sunday.


Humans of Greenville


Local photographer Joe Pellegrino explores Greenville to create a photographic census of its people.


July 18, 2018 - 56 minutes ago

The enduring image of the U.S.-Russia summit in Helsinki on Monday will be that of President Trump standing next to Vladimir Putin and suggesting he found Putin's "powerful" denial at least as persuasive as the U.S. intelligence community's unanimous finding that Russia intervened in the 2016…

APTOPIX Finland Trump Putin Summit

July 17, 2018

Chris Anglin is trying to pull a fast one on North Carolina voters.

Anglin, a Raleigh attorney, is a candidate for the N.C. Supreme Court. Until June 7, he also was a registered Democrat. But when Anglin filed as a candidate at the last moment this month, he did so as a Republican. That means there…

Chris Anglin

July 16, 2018

Thanks to tinkering by North Carolina’s General Assembly, voters this November will face a virtual book of a ballot, chock full of somewhat bewildering constitutional amendments.

Some are rather silly, such as the amendment to establish a constitutional right to hunt and fish ... except when…

N.C. Legislative Building

July 14, 2018

Dogfighting is a felony in all 50 states because the blood sport — usually accompanied by heavy wagering — is cruel to dogs. Yet in North Carolina most dogs rescued from such operations face an even harsher fate. Those that show scars and wounds from fighting are deemed dangerous and…


July 13, 2018

The Government Accountability Office has once again warned Congress that the federal government’s current fiscal trajectory is “unsustainable.”

In a report submitted to Congress on June 21, the GAO notes the federal deficit has continued to grow every year in the last few years.…

Congress Returns

July 11, 2018

Judge Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court comes at a tense moment. It could drastically shift the court's tenuous ideological balance, and it comes not long after Senate Republicans disgracefully blocked President Barack Obama from making a…


July 10, 2018

On Monday, President Donald Trump is expected to announce his nominee to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court. Given the president's promise to appoint justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade, it's widely understood that his nominee will pose a clear danger to women's reproductive…

Nancy Northup

July 10, 2018

Ordinarily when NATO's 29 national leaders get together, everybody involved pushes for all the good things they want the alliance to do. At this week's summit in Brussels, they'll mainly be hoping to keep anything bad from happening.

The center of Europe's current concerns will come as no surprise:…

Romania NATO Britain Fallon-2

July 08, 2018

Setting aside whether the Senate should confirm a Supreme Court nominee in an election year (the Merrick Garland rule) or whether a president should be allowed to appoint a justice while still under the cloud of the Russian meddling investigation (given the variety of issues such as whether a…


July 07, 2018

After the Parkland, Fla., school shooting in February but before this year’s legislative session, N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore said he wanted to address school safety issues but only those measures that could have bipartisan support.

But Moore killed a proposal similar to one included in a…

Tim Moore
105 stories in Editorials. Viewing 1 through 10.
«First Page   «Previous Page        
Page 1 of 11
        Next Page»   Last Page»