A Centereach man already facing charges he tampered with red-light cameras in Suffolk County tampered with them again, police said Tuesday.
Stephen Ruth, 43, was arrested Monday and charged with two counts of second-degree criminal mischief after 18 red-light cameras were damaged Saturday and a red-light camera pole was cut down in January, according to court documents.
The red-light cameras damaged Saturday about 5 a.m. were in Brookhaven. The red-light camera pole that was cut was at County Road 83 and Old Town Road in Coram and occurred Jan. 18, causing at least $23,000 in damages, court records show.
Ruth was arraigned Tuesday and released after posting $3,000 bail.
This is not the first time Ruth has had a brush with the law.
Seven months ago, Ruth was arrested after authorities were tipped off about a video posted on social media that showed him manipulating a red-light camera in Ronkonkoma. Ruth was charged with four counts of third-degree criminal tampering and four counts of second-degree obstruction of governmental administration, both misdemeanors. That case is pending. Police said Ruth was using an expandable pole to tilt the camera upward so it would not capture motorists at the intersection, and Ruth has openly admitted he tampered with the cameras.
Ruth said in August he felt he had to “take a stand” because the camera system improperly tickets motorists who stop — but for less than 3 seconds — before making a right on red.
At a press briefing Tuesday announcing details of the arrest, Suffolk County Police Commissioner Timothy Sini said police are investigating more incidents of damage to cameras.
“The message here is very simple,” said Sini. “In Suffolk County you have the right to express yourself. You have the right to disagree with certain public policy. You have the right to protest. But you do not have the right to violate the law and destroy public property.”
Sini said the damage overall in the two latest incidents is $100,000 or more.
“We believe there are accomplices involved, and we will bring all those to justice who are involved,” he said.
Ruth isn’t the only one crusading against red-light cameras.
Earlier this month, a St. James man was arrested on charges he tampered with them in Smithtown.
Bryan Valentine, 26, is charged with second-degree criminal tampering; he is due back at First District Court in Central Islip on May 26.
On Monday, Suffolk County Legis. Robert Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) said he will introduce legislation to suspend the county’s red-light camera program, arguing that the devices are a blatant money grab that cause more accidents than they prevent.
Trotta cited a county report that shows accidents involving injuries that occurred through the end of 2014 more than doubled at three intersections in his district with red-light cameras. On Tuesday morning, about a dozen people spoke against the red-light cameras at the Suffolk Legislature in Hauppauge.
Opponents said the most recent county report confirmed their belief it was designed to raise money.
“These cameras are more about revenue than about safety,” said Steve Archdeacon, 38 of Medford.
Hector Gavilla, an activist from Dix Hills who opposes the red-light cameras, said in an interview after the meeting that he split with Ruth in January over tactics. “I don’t support the destruction,” he said in an interview. Instead, Gavilla is looking to recruit an anti-red light camera slate of candidates to run in 2017 against the county lawmakers who approved the program.
Legis. Tom Cilmi (R-Bay Shore) has drafted a separate bill that would extend yellow lights at all intersections — including those without red-light cameras — and extend the length of time red lights in opponsing directions are simultaneously lit.
“I want to make all intersections safer, not just the ones where we think we can raise the most revenue,” he said.
With David M. Schwartz