Questions remain after Greenville’s red-light camera program deemed unconstitutional

Published: Mar. 16, 2022 at 9:23 PM EDT
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PITT COUNTY, N.C. (WITN) - North Carolina’s intermediate-level appeals court struck down the City of Greenville’s red-light camera program this week.

Two motorists brought forward a lawsuit against the city after they were given citations for intruding an intersection during a red light.

Despite being sued about its red-light cameras, the City of Greenville intends to still use them to provide protection for drivers.

The city said that the case did not deem the system itself unconstitutional, but rather where the city could allocate the funds gained from the system.

Thousands of people have received citations from the City of Greenville because of its red-light cameras.

Barry Smith, an East Carolina University student, is one of them.

“Light turns red while I am in the middle of the intersection and the camera just flashed. I didn’t think anything of it at that point,” Smith said.

It was a similar situation that caused the two motorists to sue the city of Greenville because of the system.

“Red-light camera programs primarily entrap people who are obeying the law and intend to obey the law, that are trapped in a dilemma zone,” Paul Stam, the attorney for the two motorists who filed the lawsuit said.

Stam says a dilemma zone occurs when a driver is faced with driving through a yellow light or stopping at the light.

“The City of Greenville utilizes this flawed equation to get lots of money and turn over less of it to the school board than they’re required to do by our constitution,” Stam said.

Brock Letchworth, the City of Greenville’s public information officer, says otherwise.

“This is not a moneymaker for the city, this is about creating a safer city in terms of vehicular traffic,” Letchworth said.

From 2017 to 2019, only 71.6% of the funds from red-light citations were given to Pitt County Schools, when 90% is required by state law.

“The problem is not the cameras; the cameras just record what happens. The problem is what they do with it,” Stam said.

Almost $2.5 million was generated from 2017 to 2019 with the school board receiving just more than $1.7 million.

Stam stated that almost 80% to 90% of people receiving citations aren’t breaking the law.

Letchworth said the City of Greenville is unsure of what the next steps will be.

The case is something that the city attorney’s office and the city council will have to discuss.

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