Towns Claim to Lack Authority to Take Down Red Light Cameras

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Even though the program that allowed them expired in December, dozens of red light cameras still quietly watch over intersections across New Jersey.

New Jersey's local governments are not allowed to take them down, according to public officials in two Middlesex County towns. 

The cameras no longer give tickets, but the only other difference is that affected intersections now lack signs reading, "red light photo enforced."

"It's not the township's property, it's the company's property," Edison's Administrator of Policy & Strategic Initiatives Melissa Perilstein told New Brunswick Today. 

Redflex Traffic Systems, the company hired by Edison to run their red light cameras, paid $2.1 million to settle a class-action lawsuit involving 260,000 tickets issued in five New Jersey towns including Edison.  Violators received a 10% refund on their fine, as part of the deal.

The City of New Brunswick also contracted with Redflex, an Australia-based company that recently came under fire when a former employee accused them in a lawsuit of bribing officials in New Jersey and several other states.

New Brunswick has two red light cameras, both at the same intersection.

The city government agrees with Edison that the cameras are not their property, and not their problem.

"It's my understanding that the camera is the property of Redflex and as such, they were tasked with putting it up and they will be tasked with taking it down," said Jennifer Bradshaw, a spokesperson for New Brunswick Mayor James Cahill.

Bradshaw added that the camera's presence on a county road further complicates matters.

"I need to find out more information as to what is supposed to ultimately happen to it," she told NBToday on March 19.

Cameras in New Jersey are owned by two companies: Redflex and American Traffic Solutions.

New Brunswick Today asked both when they would take down their respective cameras, though neither company has responded to inquiries.

In 2008, the state legislature passed a bill authorizing a five-year pilot program testing the use of red light cameras in the New Jersey.  The legislation is silent on who has ownership over the cameras, and how they would be removed.

Cameras went online across the state in 2009 and would remain in use until the program's expiration December 2014.  During the five-year pilot program, the cameras yielded a total of $156 million in fines from motorists.

New Brunswick municipal budgets reveal that the city made over $1 million since installing cameras at Easton Avenue and Park Boulevard, one of 73 intersections with cameras in 24 towns statewide.

In 2014, New Brunswick made $341,141 as a result of the program, but the camera went offline on December 16.

"The Redflex reveue is gone," said New Brunswick's Business Administrator Thomas Loughlin, adding that it was "not likely to return anytime soon."

In order for municipalities to operate the red light cameras and use them to collect revenue, a re-authorization bill would have to pass the Assembly and Senate, and earn the approval of Governor Chris Christie. 

Redflex hired Andrew Sinclair from the lobbying group Princeton Public Affairs Group, to ensure that the cameras have a future in New Jersey. 

Public records from the NJ Election Law Enforcement Commission show that the Princeton Public Affairs Group received $6.2 million in 2014, the second-highest in the state. 

Records also show that the lobbying group spent over $530,000 during 2014, sixth-highest in the state.

On top of its lobbying efforts, the Redflex North America website has an entire section dedicated to New Jersey.

Reporter at New Brunswick Today

Award-winning, multimedia journalist with experience in digital first and print-media. Daniel has covered local, state and regional issues, and utilized photography, social media and has written in-depth articles to produce high-quality work.