St. Louis Alderman Charles Quincy Troupe Says Red-Light Cameras Must Go

St. Louis Alderman Charles Quincy Troupe (Ward 1) has introduced a bill to repeal the ordinance allowing the use of red-light cameras in the city.

Troupe's bill would end the city's controversial red-light camera program.
Troupe's bill would end the city's controversial red-light camera program.

Troupe's bill would end the city's controversial red-light camera program.
The north-side alderman quietly introduced the legislation during an April 25 meeting of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen. On Wednesday Troupe penned a note to Municipal Judge Margaret Walsh demanding that the city turn over information regarding the zip codes of people who've been fined by the cameras. Troupe also wants Walsh, whose court oversees red-light camera cases, to provide a count of the number of people who've been issued tickets by the cameras for turning right on red.

I wrote about problems with the camera systems in a March 6 feature story, "Red Alert."

"Your assistance with obtaining information from your court records is critical in revealing the flawed and thoughtless process which generated the camera violation traffic ordinance," Troupe wrote. "I consider this to be an economic conspiracy between the city and the contractors who benefit from the fleecing of our citizens."

Reached by phone yesterday, Troupe says he's concerned with four elements of the red-light ordinance that was approved back in October 2005. "I think the fine of $100 is too high," the alderman says. "Second, people have been turning right on red in Missouri for 30 years. Most people roll slowly through those stops, and I haven't heard of it leading to increased accidents.

"Third," Troupe continues, "I believe these cameras target primarily divers in African-American communities. Last but not least, I just see the cameras as nothing but a hustle. They're hustling people out of money."

Troupe notes that he was one of the few aldermen who opposed the initial camera legislation, and adds that he's always had concerns about the behind-the-scenes lobbyists and political brokers who've profited from the cameras.

In February 2006 the city was forced to throw out its original bid for the cameras after the Riverfront Times revealed that the city violated its procurement process in favor of a camera company with ties to the office of St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay.

Troupe's bill still needs to go to committee and have a second and third reading before it would become law. The alderman is not optimistic that the bill will win final approval, but he says it's time to have a serious discussion about the cameras.

"The politicians have made money off these, and the city has made money," says Troupe. "But it's the camera companies that are walking away with the most money. It's time to end it. The law needs to either be tweaked or repealed. It's just too expensive as it is now."

-Chad Garrison