A traffic camera is being used in Mowrystown to protect the citizens of the village, mayor Frank Terwilliger and two village council members said Tuesday, but some citizens say it’s a speed trap designed to raise money.
Terwillger said this is the third week the camera has been used and that the first round of tickets were just recently mailed out. The mayor said that the camera is being used throughout the village and that no specific areas are being targeted.
“It’s not a stationary camera. It’s a camera in a cruiser operated by a police officer,” said Terwilliger, acknowleding that he has received numerous complaints. “We’re using it in a mobile cruiser all over the village. An officer is the one taking the pictures and offering the citations.”
Contrary to some claims, Terwilliger said the camera is not being used as a financial resource for the village.
“That’s not the case. We are looking out for the safety of people who live in the village,” the mayor said. “We have little children out and people walking on the sidewalks, and people are fed up with speeders. The only way we can change it is to have an officer in the village to respond.”
Use of the camera was approved by the village council, and two council members contacted Tuesday agreed that the reason the camera was approved was for the safety of the community. But one council member said there could be an unanticipated advantage to it.
“It’s for the safety of the citizens. That’s why we started this,” councilman Steve Sheeley said. “One night before we put any signs up we tested it, like if you’re coming in from Hillsboro, and in one hour the gun showed 11 people going at least 11 miles per hour over the speed limit coming into town. We have a lot of people in town running 50 to 60 miles per hour in other places.
“It’s not as much a revenue thing as for the safety of the community, and we also have the high school here. The revenue might help put a part-time officer on duty, but it didn’t start out that way. The way it started was for the safety of the citizens.”
Councilman Jim Allen said that despite some claims, the village is not in financial trouble.
Area citizens said Tuesday that people are not happy about tickets they received this week. One citizen who agreed to speak only on the condition of anonymity said she received a $95 ticket in the mail for going 28 miles per hour in a 20 mph zone. Two other citizens who also asked that their names not be used said the time of day on their ticket was not accurate.
Despite one person’s assertion of a ticket for going just 8 miles per hour over the speed limit, Terwilliger said no one is ticketed unless they are clocked going 11 miles per hour or more over the speed limit. He said that by using the camera and sending the ticket in the mail, an officer does not have to waste time chasing a driver down and then writing a citation.
However, he said that if an officer identifies someone driving a suspicious vehicle, driving on a suspended license, speeding excessively, or committing other infractions, the officer will pull them over.
“It’s not like we’re gouging anybody,” Terwilliger said. He said tickets generated by the camera are not sent to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, so they do not add points to a driver’s license, they do not impact CDL licenses, and they are not reported to insurance companies.
And both the mayor and police chief Jim Webster said the tickets from the camera are cheaper than they would be if someone had to appear before a mayor’s court.
Still, local resident Richie Young said the town is in an uproar. He said the tickets are being issued to raise funds for the village.
“There are signs, but you can’t read them,” Young said. “Nobody is gonna want to come to ball games and stuff with this junk.”
Sheeley said that close to a month before the camera was put into use, electronic signs were posted at two main entrances to Mowrystown that show the speed a vehicle is traveling as it approaches the sign. One sign is on SR 321 across from Chuck Wait Tire and the other is on Harvey Road at the village corporation limit. There are also signs at village entrances that read, “Traffic laws photo enforced.”
If someone wants to protest a ticket, Terwilliger said they can go to an online address or call an 877 number, both listed on the ticket.
Young said he was told that the first day the camera was put into use, 52 people were ticketed that morning.
“That’s incorrect. I don’t know where they’re getting their information,” Terwilliger said.
According to Sheeley, the camera reads the license plate on a vehicle, then records its speed and the time of day. He said that information is then sent to the company furnishing the camera and that the company sends out the tickets.
However, the police chief said he has to approve any ticket before it is mailed out.
The village currently has four part-time officers who work on a rotating basis, both day and night, according to Terwilliger. He said the camera is used at various hours of the day. He also said that if the speeding problem in the village improves, the camera might be used less.
“Don’t speed. That’s the name of the game,” Terwilliger said. “If you don’t speed, you won’t get a ticket.”
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or firstname.lastname@example.org.