Some Arizona cities still using speed cameras after program was ended by Gov. Jan Brewer

PHOENIX - Cameras are still flashing on some Arizona state highways two years after Gov. Jan Brewer ended Arizona's much-debated photo-enforcement program.

The Arizona Republic reports that eight cities and towns have quietly made agreements with the state allowing them to place speed or red-light cameras on roadways within their boundaries. The camera sites range from major expressways in metro areas to state routes cutting through rural towns.

And at least two more communities may add cameras.

"These are cases of local communities making local decisions about traffic-enforcement measures," said Doug Nintzel, a spokesman for the Arizona Department of Transportation. "We have viewed this as a local community and law-enforcement issue."

The moves come after the state Department of Public Safety ceased its speed-camera program in 2010 and officials removed the devices from Valley freeways.

But local officials say they have jurisdiction to enforce traffic laws within their boundaries. They say photo enforcement helps save lives by slowing traffic on dangerous roads passing through their communities.

In Show Low, the police department has reported a roughly 18 percent decrease in accidents since the city introduced speed and red-light cameras in 2009. Last year, the city had 255 accidents. Three highways run through the quiet, alpine community, creating a sometimes deadly confluence of local and through traffic.

"Local control is still something that's very important to the citizens of our community," Mayor Daryl Seymore said, adding that when a highway runs through a city, its leaders should make the call.

The cameras have caught the attention of a handful of conservative lawmakers and municipal leaders who question the impact on public safety and the state's review process for issuing permits.

Upset violators have shown up at council meetings and court hearings and written letters protesting what they see as an ineffective or "Big Brother" policing tactic.

Ellen Holcomb, 70, of Sun City Grand, said she received her first speeding ticket from El Mirage last year. She was cited for driving 11 miles over the 45-mile-per-hour speed limit, and she thinks the state should prevent cities from using photo cameras on highways.

"For quite a while, I just avoided that whole area because I was so irritated about it," Holcomb said. "To me, it was kind of a scam. I still think a real cop does more to deter bad driving."

El Mirage officials say the cameras improve public safety and free up police to focus on more serious problems. The mayor did not respond to a request for comment.

Matthew Benson, a spokesman for the Governor's Office, said although Brewer has made her objections to photo enforcement known over the years, the decision still should be made locally. He emphasized that highway photo enforcement exists on a much smaller scale than the DPS program.

"This is much more limited in scale and scope," Benson said. "You've only got (eight) instances of this throughout the state."

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