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Lawmakers pull plug on PhotoCop proposal

Rocky says defeat of measure by House panel will cost lives

SHARE Lawmakers pull plug on PhotoCop proposal

PhotoCop won't be back — at least not this year.

A House committee on Monday voted down HB219, a bill to let cities bring back the use of photo radar and red-light cameras to catch stoplight offenders. State law bans the practice.

The 6-3 committee vote, which fell along party lines, will cost lives and heartache, Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson said.

"Lives will be lost and people will be seriously injured as a result of this legislative action," he said.

The mayor, who along with the City Council supported the bill, said it was difficult to understand how traffic could become a partisan issue.

"I don't see how calming traffic in neighborhoods and deterring people from violating traffic laws can be a partisan issue," he said. "On this one, the Republicans are clearly wrong."

Some cities in Utah implemented photo radar devices in the early 1990s, but the 1996 Legislature made it practically impossible for cities to use them. The bill by Rep. Roz McGee would have effectively repealed that ban.

Committee members agreed with McGee, D-Salt Lake, that the problem the bill was addressing is a real one. But they didn't agree the proposal was the right solution.

"This bill adds to the tools cities and towns can use for red-light traffic enforcement," McGee said. "It's unfortunate that (legislators) were not willing to permit cities and towns to use this safety measure if they choose to."

Salt Lake County Sheriff Aaron Kennard said he opposed the use of photo radar in previous years but said he has changed his mind, "having seen the tragic results that come from people running red lights."

Kennard said photo radar would be beneficial in areas where speed limits are 30 mph or less. Such areas lie in subdivisions and neighborhoods, where he said it is difficult to keep officers on duty because of limited numbers.

"We just want to get public knowledge out there that we are watching these intersections," Kennard said.

Walter M. Jarman, a resident of Salt Lake City, pleaded with legislators to pass the bill. He said an accident in which someone ran a red light resulted in the death of his father.

"I get a feeling I'm risking my life out there on those roads," Jarman said. "If you don't do something about traffic problems in Salt Lake . . . I guarantee something like this will happen to you."

Lincoln Shurtz of the Utah League of Cities and Towns said the devices would protect citizens, providing "limits and safeguards" for traffic enforcement.

"Automated traffic enforcement would create safe environments in our communities," he said.

Safety is something Salt Lake resident Dalane England is willing to risk in order to protect her constitutional rights. She believes HB219 would violate her right to confront an accuser.

"This country was founded on freedom and liberty, this country was not founded for safety or security," England said. "People are going to die if we drive automobiles."

Rep. Michael T. Morley, R-Spanish Fork, agreed. He said evidence of guilt should not lie within a photo.

Another concern from Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, was that fines for speeding in Utah are "too cheap." He said the legislation wouldn't deter lawbreakers.

However, Rep. David Litvack, D-Salt Lake, said the bill was crafted carefully enough that abuse would not be an issue.

"It would be used as a preventive tool," he said, encouraging the committee to support the bill.

E-mail: wleonard@desnews.com