'Red Light Robin Hood' fired up over cameras

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Stephen Ruth was heated and demanding change. Ruth, also known as Red Light Robin Hood for his stunt tampering with red light cameras earlier this year, spoke before the Suffolk County Legislature Tuesday. He argued the cameras do more harm than good.

"Remove the cameras; abandon the program. Lives have been lost," he yelled at lawmakers. "The county hid behind the facade of safety and when they didn't make the revenue the decided to shorten the yellow lights."

This is the latest theory behind the red light camera program that now has some lawmakers questioning inconsistencies.

"Red light cameras were intended for a safety issue," said Legislator Kevin McCaffrey. "We're finding out more and more that may not be the case now. It's becoming more of a money grab than a safety issue."

Hector Gavilla, who is against the program, found what he says is the county's contract with Xerox, the company that maintains the cameras. According to Gavilla, the contract has a minimum number of tickets required. If 25 tickets aren't issued in a 16-hour period, the county will need to pay.

"Suffolk County is giving Xerox full authority to run this entire procedure," he said.

But for their part, Suffolk County officials said that while timing varies with each location, it has to do with New York State Department of Transportation guidelines, including the posted speed limit on each road and its capacity. The county insists there is no quota.

"This is really just part of the contract that was set up with the contractor so that they could recoup some of their finances because of the fact that they've had heavy investment of putting all these cameras in," said Commissioner Gilbert Anderson of the Public Works Department.

"You know what? If you don't break the law you won't get a ticket," said Alexander Strauss, of Miller Place, who also testified at the hearing and was the only member of the public supporting the cameras. "If you don't go through a red light, you won't get a ticket."

According to Suffolk County, last year rear-end accidents and the number of accidents involving injuries were both down 10 percent.