Tennessee Traffic Camera Protest Gathers Support-via-[ET-Liberty.com]-May 09, 2009


Camera protest brings in some support

By Madison Mathews, Press Staff Writer, mmathews@johnsoncitypress.com

Mike McGinn doesn’t want traffic cameras to be installed anywhere, especially in his hometown of Kingsport.

“I don’t want them in Kingsport, I want to fight it wherever it’s at,” McGinn said. “This does not improve safety. It improves the financial bottom line (of the city).”

He also believes it infringes upon the constitutional right of all citizens. McGinn traveled from Kingsport, where a traffic camera system has recently been installed, to take part in a rally to protest Jonesborough’s Redflex traffic camera system on Saturday.

The rally was held by the Students of American Liberty, East Tennessee State University’s pro-Constitution group, in front of town hall. From 10 a.m. until 7 p.m., many people showed up to sign petitions urging Jonesborough’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen to take down the traffic camera system.

“The sentiment is that people don’t want these things. It scares them. It raises traffic accidents. They’re being surveilled by a foreign corporation known as Redflex, (which is) actually based in Australia,” said Matthew Jeffers, chairman of the group and event coordinator. “I have a huge issue with that. I don’t like the fact that a foreign corporation is surveilling us.”

Jeffers believes the Redflex camera system, which was installed at three intersections along 11E in January, breaches the Fourth Amendment and a number of others. Although he doesn’t live in Jonesborough, Jeffers has a large number of family members who live in the town.

“Just because I live out of town, doesn’t mean I don’t hear the voices of people that live in town … 90 percent of the people in this town don’t like these cameras, and if we have to we’ll take it to referendum, and we’ll let the people of this town vote on it and not the mayor and aldermen,” Jeffers said.

Craig Ford, operations manager for the town of Jonesborough, says there’s a number of people who have personally expressed they feel much safer now while traveling through the intersections, because of the traffic camera system.

But Jeffers and the rest of the group in opposition think safety is not in the minds of town officials, but rather a ploy to gain profit.

“We care about the safety. Redflex doesn’t care about the safety. Redflex has no regard for human life and proven it time and time again,” Jeffers said.

Ford said the cameras were put in place in order to provide safety for everyone who drives along 11E, including Jonesborough residents, people passing through the city and officers.

Aside from the safety issue, Jeffers is more concerned with the fact that a foreign entity is surveilling American citizens on their own soil. He said he wants to make clear that Redflex has aggressively pushed its systems in more than 230 cities across America. He believes the board should immediately terminate their contract with Redflex.

“If they refuse to do that then we’ll see if they still have their jobs after the next election. We’ll take a ballot measure and then we’ll take it to the state level, and then I’ll sue them if I have to,” Jeffers said. “When I set out to win a fight, I win it.”

With the rally, the group hoped to not only raise awareness about the situation but to also move toward following many states, such as Minnesota, Iowa, Michigan and Texas that have either banned the use of traffic light cameras or declared them unconstitutional.

Ford, however, believes the traffic camera system doesn’t have anything to do with being constitutional or not.

“It is not a constitutionally guaranteed right to operate a motor vehicle, it’s a privilege … Each state runs their own driver licensing program,” Ford said.

According to a 2008 report prepared by the state Attorney General, “the issuance of a citation for traffic violations based on photographic evidence from a camera does not violate any constitutional right of the citizens of Tennessee.”

For Jeffers and his group, that is simply not the case.

“When these cameras so-called catch you, you are guilty until proven innocent. This is a total corruption of due process,” Jeffers said. “This is a massacre to the Constitution. Every time I see one of these cameras it breaks my heart.”

Another problem Jeffers has with the traffic camera system is that having an automated traffic monitoring system removes police from the equation and gives Redflex access to personal records.

“If these cameras stop so much crime, let’s just replace the whole police force with cameras,” Jeffers said.

Maj. Matt Rice of the Jonesborough Department of Safety said although the camera is monitoring traffic violations, a sworn officer still has to review the scene and decide if it is in fact a violation.

Rice also believes that taking officers off traffic patrol helps save them from being in danger while having someone stopped on the side of the road.

As the group continued with the rally Saturday, Rice watched as the passionate group of protesters passed out information.

“As passionate as they are against those cameras, I’m just as passionate for them, because I feel that they are a very good tool,” Rice said.

Since the cameras were put in place, city officials have seen a decrease in the number of traffic-related accidents at the three intersections where a Redflex camera system has been installed. It also decreased the number of traffic violations. Ford said once the cameras were in place, 100 violations an hour was taken down to around 30 violations a day.

The Students of American Liberty managed to bring in more than 400 signatures for their petitions, which they soon plan to take before the board. The group plans to spend the next two months canvassing neighborhoods throughout Jonesborough.

“We’re going to take it from every avenue that we can approach it from. We’re going to take it from a constitutional perspective, a legal perspective and hit them every way we can,” Jeffers said.

Although the group was able to gather support for the cause with the rally, Ford said it’s hard to argue with the numbers.

“Even at Wal-Mart, when you pull on the parking lot, you’re on video. Why is that not a violation of your Fourth Amendment rights, but it is to take a photo of your license plate, which is a public record,” Ford said. “That argument just absolutely holds no weight whatsoever.”


Watch Matthew Jeffers’ presentation during the Libertarian Party of Tennessee convention, that took place April 24th and 25th, 2009, in Knoxville.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=j1Ch_fDEX6I

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East Tennessee Liberty: http://www.ET-Liberty.com
Ron Paul’s Campaign for Liberty: http://www.campaignforliberty.com

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