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Police and Residents Support Red Light Cameras for State College

by on January 24, 2014 1:36 PM

State College Police Chief Thomas King and the College Heights Neighborhood Association would like to see a state law amended to allow the use of enforcement cameras at red lights in the borough.

The Pennsylvania General Assembly approved legislation in 2012 allowing camera use within all first, second and third-class counties in towns with a population of at least 20,000, and under the direction of a police department accredited with the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association.

While State College has an accredited police department, the borough does not qualify to utilize red light cameras as it is located in a fourth-class county.

King says the law "doesn't make much sense" and should be amended to remove the class of a county as a determining factor.

"We have such a high density of pedestrians mixing with vehicles. It creates some dangerous conditions at intersections," King says.

Specifically, authorities frequently see accidents involving pedestrians at the intersection of Park Avenue and Atherton Street, he says.

King says the borough clearly has a need for the cameras as State College is home to roughly 45,000 students and 10 to 12 weekends a year the borough becomes the third largest community in the state with 100,000 people visiting for football games and other events.

Donna Queeney, president of the College Heights Neighborhood Association, is leading a grassroots effort to petition the state legislature to revisit the law.

"There are a lot of data out there indicating that the red light cameras do change people's behavior," she says. "We are not looking so much for enforcement, it's for prevention of people running through red lights. When people see the sign saying there is a red light camera they tend not to run a red light. It changes people's behaviors and we want to change people's behaviors."

If the state legislature changed the law, Queeney says the borough would purchase the equipment and local police would evaluate each infraction to determine whether or not a citation is warranted. She says infractions would not impact a person's auto insurance. If a person received a ticket for an infraction by someone else driving their car, Queeney says the recipient could swear to such before a district judge and have the ticket eliminated.

While the College Heights Association is leading the grassroots effort, Queeney says residents throughout the borough support the change.

"We just want to make the place safe and it truly isn't safe," she says.

Tor Michaels, spokesman for state Rep. Scott Conklin, (D-Centre), says the lawmaker is aware of the grassroots effort to change the law.

However, Michaels says the lawmaker wants to hear from elected officials in the borough and surrounding townships, as well as law enforcement leaders, before taking any action.

"We stand ready to help local officials go in any direction they would like to and we welcome that opportunity. We do support the concept of allowing local municipalities deciding whether they want to put that technology in place," Michaels says. "Before drafting or amending legislation we would want to hear local officials say, 'yes, we would like to have this technology available to put in place.'"

In August, State College Borough Manager Tom Fountaine sent a letter to Conklin, state Rep. Kerry Benninghoff and state Sen. Jake Corman saying that the borough supports an amendment to the law that would allow the borough use of red light cameras.

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Jennifer Miller is a reporter for StateCollege.com. She has worked in journalism since 2005. She's covered news at the local, state and national level with an emphasis on crime and local government. jenn.miller@statecollege.com
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