Nightly News   |  March 08, 2014

Critics: Stop with the Traffic Cameras

Some believe red light cameras don’t decrease accidents, but rather, increase them.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> in towns, cities and states across america, a debate is now raging over those cameras that snap a picture when you run a red light . you then get a ticket in the mail, usually with a hefty fine . but while some places have decided to turn them off, others are buying more of them. our report from nbc's kristen dahlgren.

>> reporter: running a red light . nobody argues it isn't dangerous. but there is now a huge debate about whether cameras that catch offenders have a place in america's intersections.

>> i want to get them out as quickly as possible.

>> reporter: this town in new jersey, one of the first places to get the cameras, just banned them. police told the new mayor they weren't making intersections safer.

>> t-bone crashes actually increased 400%.

>> reporter: brick isn't alone. on thursday st . petersburg, florida pulled the plug on its cameras after three years saying they didn't make fiscal sense. on wednesday, ellisville, missouri, voted to terminate its contract after public outcry . critics say the cameras are unconstitutional and create a driving hazard.

>> it puts people in a really tough spot between making a choice to perhaps get into a rear-end accident or force themselves to run that intersection and get a ticket.

>> reporter: nationwide the number of communities using red light cameras is down about 6% since 2012 . and while 24 states and washington, d.c. allow them, nine states have banned them.

>> we're coming up to this first one right now.

>> reporter: st . louis police chief sam dodson, says in his city he's noticed no increase in crashes. his officers sort through some 500 violations a day.

>> there we have another violation. no stop.

>> reporter: dodson says without the cameras, his force would be stretched too thin.

>> it would take over 200 police officers to do what the cameras are doing today.

>> reporter: he agrees with the camera provider's statistics that say citations are working.

>> more than 90% of the people that run red lights don't get another ticket. they don't do it again.

>> reporter: driver reaction is mixed.

>> i mean they ain't there for public safety .

>> it is a simple honest to god money grab.

>> reporter: so the debate, like these drivers, isn't likely to stop. kristen dahlgren, nbc news, st . louis, missouri.