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Suffolk red-light cameras would be suspended under new bill

Suffolk Legis. Rob Trotta announces his effort to

Suffolk Legis. Rob Trotta announces his effort to suspend the county's red-light camera program in Commack at Indian Head Road and Jericho Turnpike, an intersection with multiple red-light cameras, on Monday, April 11, 2016. Photo Credit: Steve Pfost

Suffolk County Legis. Robert Trotta will introduce legislation Tuesday 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.

At a news conference in Commack on Monday, Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) cited a new 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.

Trotta accused Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, a Democrat, of using red-light camera revenue to avoid an unpopular property tax increase.

The cameras, installed in Suffolk’s five western towns, generate $80 tickets for each violation.

“This program is nothing more than an attempt to raise taxation by citation,” said Trotta, whose bill would halt the program until county officials can re-evaluate the camera locations.

Speaking for the administration, Paul Margiotta, executive director of Suffolk County’s Traffic and Parking Violations Agency, said the camera program “has reduced accidents involving injuries at intersections with cameras and dramatically reduced right-angle accidents, which have the highest potential for serious injuries or even fatalities by more than 20 percent.”

Margiotta added, “Intersections with red-light cameras on average are safer than intersections without cameras.”

Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville) said the county should conduct a review of the program to determine why some locations have seen an uptick in accidents. “We need to look at the cause of the accidents,” said Gregory, who contends the cameras should remain active during the review period.

Suffolk’s 2014 report to the state showed that at 44 of the 100 intersections with cameras, the frequency of accidents involving injuries increased through the end of 2014, compared with the frequency of accidents between 2007 and 2009, before the program began.

Countywide, crashes involving injuries dropped 4.2 percent at intersections with red-light cameras through 2014 compared with the period before 2010. Total accidents decreased 3 percent through 2014.

Suffolk’s cameras generated 444,008 tickets in 2014 and motorists paid $33 million in citations. The county paid its vendor, Xerox State and Local Solutions, $9.5 million in 2014, the report said.

The Democratic caucus controls the Suffolk Legislature by a 12-6 margin.

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