Put the brakes on resurgence of traffic cams


POSTED: Thursday, February 05, 2009

I'm not sure where state Rep. Joe Souki's fascination with cameras comes from, but maybe there weren't enough pictures taken of him when he was a child. It seems to have become his life's goal to make sure that everyone in Hawaii can be photographed by strategically placed cameras along our roadways. All in the name of “;public safety,”; of course.

Souki is still sore that the infamous “;van cam”; program of several years ago—that nabbed outlaws going one mile over the speed limit—is no more. His attempt to revise the oppressive camera-enforcement program in this year's Legislature thankfully has been forced off the road. But Souki eerily told reporters that the program is not dead, but “;waiting to be given life.”; Is this a bill or Frankenstein? Will a wooden stake have to be driven into its heart?

Speaking of hearts, the other bill close to Souki's camera-loving heart is one that would allow the use of cameras to catch red-light runners. Souki apparently sees red-light runners in his dreams, lawlessly dashing across Honolulu like Quantrill's Raiders, causing fear and dread among old ladies and little children.

It must be in his dreams because I drive on roads every day, and I rarely see anyone run a red light. I've seen some drivers scooting across on a yellow, but if they'd tried to stop suddenly they would have caused a chain-reaction collision with the cars behind them. The red-light camera bill “;still lives,”; as Souki and Dr. Frankenstein might say. And it's getting some support. Even the governor believes the counties should be able to decide if they want Big Brother lurking in the form of cameras at every intersection. A spokesman for the Department of Transportation tellingly said the red-light cameras are needed because, “;Police can't be everywhere at once.”;

And, see, that's where the disconnect lies. That fellow, and apparently Souki's supporters, don't understand that most people DON'T WANT the police everywhere at once. They want the rule of law and peace and safety to reign throughout the land, but they don't want to forfeit all their privacy and the presumption of innocence to get it.

Under this proposed red-light camera bill, vehicle owners will be sent a ticket in the mail if their car is caught running a red. If they weren't driving the car at the time, they will have to prove it. In other words, the burden of the state to prove a criminal offense against someone supposedly presumed innocent will be turned on its head.

A basic foundation of our legal system is that an individual does not have to prove his innocence. The state has to prove his guilt, either through a preponderance of evidence or beyond a reasonable doubt. Why this tenet should be tossed out simply because we have some new technology that enthralls people like Mr. Souki is beyond understanding.

If Souki thinks red-light cameras are such a swell idea, why doesn't he try them out first on the roughly 1,400 people who elected him on Maui instead of possibly thrusting it on the million citizens of Oahu?