Safety: Let’s do it big and spread the wealth

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 24, 2008

Some people are skeptical.

Not me.

I mean we’ve got it right there in black and white in last Tuesday’s paper from the mayor and deputy police chief.

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A traveling band of traffic-control camera salespeople was welcomed at City Hall and, because they are so dedicated to our well-being, Vicksburg’s leaders are leaning toward giving the system a two-camera “free” try.

“The city’s interest in this is not really about revenue at all — it’s about public safety,” said Mayor Laurence Leyens.

That being the case, I don’t think the city should limit RedSpeed Mississippi to Vicksburg’s busiest two intersections for a “test.” I say put up cameras at every traffic light, every stop sign, every chicken crossing. Let’s install monitors to alert the city when residents’ home fire alarm batteries go dead. And speaking of dead, the speed limit in Cedar Hill Cemetery is 5 miles per hour. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen cars in the graveyard going 6 or 7. Bring on the cameras. Every one they’ve got. Let’s get some safety going.

As another benefit, Leyens said RedSpeed can free police officers to patrol and stamp out real crime. Just think of the savings from that! No courts, no jail, no public defenders, no judges …

RedSpeed has been embraced just about everywhere the company has made its pitch — Tupelo, McComb, Natchez.

The proposition is simple.

The company installs cameras that take photos of the tags of traffic violators. Owners of those tags get a bill in the mail. By no means all, but some violators will send in checks or money orders. When they do, the RedSpeed splits the take 50-50 with the city.

To avoid Constitutional niceties — heretofore known as rights — RedSpeed deems its bills to be “civil penalties.” Offenders have no right to trial, appeal or anything else. They pay up or face a collections agency, scars on their credit reports and such.

Now there’s a bluezillion other issues here, such as whether the owner of a car (say the parent of a teen) is liable for a fine (even a civil fine) if the parent was not driving. Does Hertz have to pay its customers’ fines?

But the bottom line here is the money — especially the fact that City Hall doesn’t want it.

That being the case, there are so many good uses.

Based on his own words, surely the mayor would just endorse any checks from RedSpeed over to the public schools or United Way or the humane society. Accounts could be established to help people pay their (city) utility bills, or maybe even to buy groceries.

If only enough cameras can be put up to catch enough people doing enough unsafe things, the city might be able to refund all the money customers lose at Vicksburg casinos. And the city could get in on the games of chance, putting all city addresses in a hopper and drawing one a week out for a cash award.

We’re so lucky to have a mayor and a deputy police chief who have so little interest in money and so great an interest in our safety. And we’re so lucky that enhancing safety can be translated into cash, too.

Let’s make sure employees do wash their hands after visiting the restroom.

Let’s make sure people do keep their hands and feet from under their mowers.

No adapters for the three-prong plugs on Christmas lights this year.

Let’s put cameras everywhere and impose fines for everything.

And never forget, it’s not about the money. It’s about safety.


Charlie Mitchell is executive editor of The Vicksburg Post. Write to him at Box 821668, Vicksburg, MS 39182, or e-mail