Stephen Ruth, dubbed the “Red Light Robin Hood,” has made it his mission to rid his New York county of its red light camera program, claiming it has led to several fatal accidents after the duration of the yellow lights were shortened to trick cars into citations.
The Suffolk County man has posted several videos to his Facebook page documenting the timing of the lights throughout the county. His videos seem to offer proof that yellow warning lights are much shorter at intersections where red light cameras are installed.
One clip shows the duration of a yellow light at an intersection with no cameras to be five seconds. Another clip shows the duration of a yellow light at an intersection with a camera to be three seconds.
That two-second reduction has led to millions of extra dollars for the county and Xerox, the company that contracts the cameras.
The clips are included in the video below, which also shows how he uses a painter’s extension pole to move the cameras away from the intersections, an act that has landed him in jail.
Ruth was charged with tampering of public property and obstructing government administration, charges he plans to fight in court based on the cameras being owned by a private company and not the public.
Ruth says that his August arrest hasn’t stopped him from his very public battle against the camera program in Suffolk County and says he won’t stop until all of the cameras are removed.
Ruth, who works in real estate and construction, says the yellow lights were shortened three years ago when the county was approved to double the size of their camera program.
Through its contract with Suffolk County, Xerox provides, installs and maintains the cameras at no charge. The company makes money on the program by collecting $13 for each ticket, an amount that jumps to $33 when a camera generates more than 90 tickets in a month.
The contract also calls for each camera to generate at least 25 tickets between the hours of 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Each camera that falls short of this quota requires the county to pay $2,132 for each that falls short of this quota. Xerox also collects an extra $17 for each ticket generated at cameras that do not meet the quota. You can find a copy of the contract here.
The ticket for this infraction costs the driver $100 for the red light ticket as well as a $25 late fee for tickets not addressed in “where the violated failed to timely respond,” of which Xerox collects $12.50.
The contract the county has with Xerox allows for a thirty day cancelation notice, and he wants the county to use it immediately.
In a telephone interview with PINAC, Ruth says the same tactic is used to catch funeral processions and emergency vehicles. He says it was his priest who tipped him off to the “trickery,” as Ruth calls it, after receiving several of those red light tickets himself.
According to 2014 article from Newsday.com, the county’s red light program was started in 2010 after state legislatures approved the installation of red light cameras at 50 intersections in Suffolk County. The program was expanded to include 50 new intersections in 2012, increasing the fines collected 80 percent, or $17 million.
And while the revenue of the program increased, so did rear end collisions, up more than nine percent from 2010 to 2012, while injuries and side impact collisions were said to be down. The county has yet to release the crash information for the years following 2012. Ruth believes the information has not been released because the crash rates have risen after the yellow lights were shortened.
“It’s better that there be a fender bender in the rear than an accident in the middle of the intersection — those are the accidents that went down,” said Paul Margiotta, executive director of Suffolk’s traffic and parking agency, which runs the Red Light Safety Program.”
But Ruth doesn’t agree, and he has taken some extreme measures to stop the increase in collisions, including his arrest in August for using the extension rod to reposition the red light cameras while video recording himself declaring, “you only need a set of balls and a painters extension pole” to save “innocent people a lot of money.”
In a post made on his Facebook page he said:
“Of course I knew I would be arrested. I did it for the people who come back from war and get abused by these cameras. I did it because senior citizens are getting these, the same ones that went to war for us. “
Ruth says he has been to court twice for his August arrest but each time his case has been continued. His next court date is March 24th.