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Smile! You’re on Union City’s version of Candid Camera

Smile! You’re on Union City’s version of Candid Camera

Posted: Friday, May 20, 2011 8:01 pm
By: By David Critchlow Jr.

Smile! You’re on Union City’s version of Candid Camera | David Critchlow Jr., Just A Thought

I feel safer already.
How so? I received my first speeding ticket through Union City’s Automated Traffic Enforcement Program. The fine? $50.
No police and no discussion — because that’s my license plate on my truck passing through the intersection as documented by a stationary camera. Requesting a hearing is an option, but who’s the judge going to believe. Actually, whether it was man or machine, I was probably guilty.
When this automated system was being introduced, and later passed, by the Union City Council, it was touted as a safety measure and not a money-making venture for the city. It’s been suggested by some that if that were the case, then why doesn’t the city donate the money to a charity. I’m sure representatives of Hometown Walk of Hope would gladly accept a donation and I would certainly feel better about my $50 contribution if it were going to them.
From a safety standpoint, I’m not sure alerting me by way of a ticket via the postal service several days after the alleged offense improves road safety. In fact, had I actually been pulled over by an officer at the time, I feel fairly confident I would have slowed down immediately — and probably for several days, weeks or months after that, thereby improving safety.
On the bright side, at least my heart didn’t start racing from seeing the blues flash in the rearview mirror. At my age, that’s potentially a safety issue of its own.
As for the red light cameras, there is no doubt it is a dangerous situation when someone races through an intersection to beat a red light. Wrecks, which can result in fatalities, are a major concern.
However, now that the red light cameras are in place, I’ve seen drivers slamming on their brakes to avoid getting a ticket, which can also be a very dangerous situation.
Debate on the use of the automated traffic enforcement program has stirred up quite a bit of debate, with several out-of-towners saying Union City is nothing more than a speed trap and they intend to take their business elsewhere in the future. If that is the case, local merchants would beg to differ about whether or not the so-called “robocop” system “is not about the money.” It could be costing them plenty.
Some unhappy drivers are taking a different approach to fighting the system, or so I’m told.
One person heard that a special translucent license plate cover would block the camera from capturing their plate information on film. In a later conversation, the person told me he was notified by mail — to the tune of a $50 fine — that the license plate cover did not work.
Others have chosen a different tact altogether by taunting the system in various ways.
They claim to have covered their license plates entirely, written their strongly-worded opposing views to the system on posters, covered their faces and offered one-finger salutes as they race by the cameras at high speeds. To me, this just screams the message, “I get it! This is about safety!”
Some local car dealers have found out the hard way about the automated system as some of their test-driven vehicles have been ticketed for speeding.
Don’t jump to any conclusions. I’m not the culprit in any of these cases. I outgrew this type of juvenile behavior a couple of years ago.
The community of Clarksburg is widely known as a speed trap. As a form of silent rebellion, many people won’t even stop on their way through there to buy a soft drink.
I would hate to see that our city’s calling card arrives in the form of a $50 fine, especially if it’s costing the city and county more money in the long run from potential visitors who would normally shop, dine and stay here.
If people are speeding through town, pull them over. I think people would rather face their accuser than be blindsided by Union City’s version of “Big Brother” greeting them when they get home.
I appreciate the police department and the oftentimes thankless job they do in protecting us. Saying that, I’d prefer having them protect me through manpower than with a camera mounted on a post — supposedly all in the name of safety.
Editor David Critchlow Jr. may be contacted by e-mail at

Published in The Messenger 5.20.11