Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Public safety

Red-light cameras are watching, and that's a good thing

Hey, you there. The person who was driving that maroon minivan at Gandy and West Shore the day before Christmas.

Maybe you were making a frantic rush to the mall, or maybe that's just how you drive. But friend, when you rolled that right turn without stopping after the traffic light had clearly gone red, you were looking at a $158 ticket.

That will dampen your Christmas spirit.

How do I know, since no blue lights showed up in your rear view to wreck your day that day?

Because one of those red-light cameras recently installed at our worst intersections was on the job. It took a photo of your van before and after the light changed. It took video, too. And sensors on the ground were busy noting how fast you were going. Who knew, right?

That information about you — and others similarly suspected of color-blindness, including scarier ones who sailed straight through intersections like the traffic lights were mere suggestions — was sent off to a camera company in Arizona. The likely violations were sent back to local police for the final call on whether they — and you, Minivan-On-A-Mission — would find something expensive in your mail.

Maybe even as you were taking down the Christmas twinkle lights, an officer was at a desk at the police station, eyeing your van on a computer screen. He could slow you down to quarter-speed, watch you frame by frame, play the video as many times as he wanted and zoom in on your tag down to the mud splatters.

Tampa police Sgt. Carl Giguere told me the kind of things considered in the to-ticket-or-not-to-ticket decision: In your case, Mr. Minivan, you were turning right and not blowing directly through the light. You were going slower than the 15 mph Tampa police set as the cutoff for nailing "the worst of the worst" right-on-reds. There were no pedestrians.

No ticket.

You got lucky even if you didn't know it.

But plenty didn't as red-light cameras debuted in Tampa and St. Petersburg — not the SUV I watched on screen gunning through the light and seeming a whisker away from a newspaper vendor; not the car sailing through a red light on a rain-slick street at night.

(Yes, the cameras are on duty 24/7.)

And here's a detail police particularly like: An officer can go through dozens of those culled cases in an hour, work that could take an entire squad days of staking out an intersection, waiting through light cycles and pulling people over.

Tampa's cameras meant 12,606 tickets in the first two months, 6,338 in St. Petersburg. And good. My anti-Big-Brother tendencies go right out the window when it comes to dumb choices that can hurt people. This week, I saw not one but two drivers pecking on iPads in traffic. It hurt my head.

It's not just me: In a recent poll in Hillsborough and Pinellas, 62 percent of us gave red-light cameras a thumbs-up.

We're still getting used to them, though. A few who saw a photo of their car printed on the ticket, the one taken before the car got into the intersection, called police to say it clearly showed they were stopped. They were gently told this was a still photo, and directed to the video viewable on a website to tell the whole tale. And the ones I saw left little room for argument: Light turns red, car keeps going.

As with recycling bins and watering restrictions, I think we'll get used to cameras watching how we drive. And eventually, maybe even the misguided minivans among us will pick the correct pedal for when the light goes red.

Comments
Fingerprint on Gatorade bottle leads to arrest of man, 23, in sexual assault of 71-year-old woman

Fingerprint on Gatorade bottle leads to arrest of man, 23, in sexual assault of 71-year-old woman

NEW PORT RICHEY — The 23-year-old man wanted in connection with sexually assaulting a 71-year-old woman on Monday left behind the clue that deputies said led them right to him: A fingerprint on a Gatorade bottle.Deputies said that and other evidence ...
Updated: 4 hours ago
County gives initial support to adding deputies at Hernando elementary schools

County gives initial support to adding deputies at Hernando elementary schools

BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County Commission on Tuesday informally supported adding as many as 10 school resource officers in county schools, including one for every elementary school, in an effort to bolster security in the wake of the deadly school...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Next stop for Parkland school shooting survivors: the Florida Capitol

Next stop for Parkland school shooting survivors: the Florida Capitol

PARKLAND — Students who survived the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School began a 400-mile journey to Florida’s capital Tuesday to urge lawmakers to prevent a repeat of the massacre that killed 17 students and faculty last week.Three buses carryi...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Man charged with killing wife who disappeared at sea

Man charged with killing wife who disappeared at sea

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- A man who claimed his wife disappeared at sea when their boat collided with an unknown object near the Bahamas was charged Tuesday with killing her and intentionally trying to sink the vessel to cover his tracks.Lewis Bennett...
Updated: 8 hours ago
She drove drunk with a child in the backseat, deputies say. She said she ‘just got out of rehab’

She drove drunk with a child in the backseat, deputies say. She said she ‘just got out of rehab’

A Miami woman is accused of driving intoxicated with a child in the back seat of her car — and she told a Palm Beach County Sheriff’s deputy that she "just got out of rehab," according to arrest recordsStephanie Roque, 30, was traveling through Welli...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Investigators find insufficient evidence against former state fair executive director

Investigators find insufficient evidence against former state fair executive director

TAMPA — Charles Pesano may have used his position as executive director of the Florida State Fair to funnel business to his family’s company, get Tampa Bay Rays tickets and have a hot tub installed in his Valrico home, but there is no evidence he com...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Girl, 12, sister of murder victim, found safe after leaving Bradenton home

Girl, 12, sister of murder victim, found safe after leaving Bradenton home

BRADENTON — Jalyssa Shannon, the sister of 13-year-old Riverview murder victim Janessa Shannon, was found safe Monday evening after leaving her mother’s Bradenton home Sunday, authorities said.Jalyssa was found about 7 p.m., according to the Manatee ...
Published: 02/20/18
Young child struck by vehicle in Tampa

Young child struck by vehicle in Tampa

TAMPA — A young child was injured after being struck by a vehicle Thursday morning, according to police.The crash involved a pedestrian and a vehicle near Myrtle Street and Serena Drive around 7:45 a.m., police said.The child sustained non-life threa...
Published: 02/20/18
Most Americans say Trump, Congress not doing enough to stop mass shootings, Post-ABC poll finds

Most Americans say Trump, Congress not doing enough to stop mass shootings, Post-ABC poll finds

More than 6 in 10 Americans fault Congress and President Donald Trump for not doing enough to prevent mass shootings, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, with most Americans continuing to say these incidents are more reflective of probl...
Published: 02/20/18
Romano: Until the Parkland shooting, lawmakers ignored requests for school safety funds

Romano: Until the Parkland shooting, lawmakers ignored requests for school safety funds

His words and his pleas are similar to what we’ve heard from others in recent days.Kids deserve to feel safe when they walk into a classroom in Florida. More security is needed. More boots on the ground would be helpful. Mostly, more money must be de...
Published: 02/20/18