A suburban New York man facing criminal charges for tampering with several red light cameras said that he knew he would be arrested after posting video of his actions online but that it was done in protest of government abuse.
“It’s abuse on the hard-working American and with the taxes we pay, it’s not necessary,” Stephen Ruth told reporters Wednesday, a day after his arrest on charges of criminal tampering and obstruction of governmental administration. He was released on a desk appearance ticket after his arrest by Suffolk County police, who said they received anonymous tips about Ruth’s social media post.
Ruth, a 42-year-old landlord from Long Island, said he became fed up after receiving “more than” six tickets for red light camera violations. Suffolk County police said Ruth has been issued 10 such violations since 2010.
“Naturally, I thought I was going to be arrested,” he said of the tampering charge. “I thought it was a cause I was willing to fight for, and I am still willing to fight for, otherwise I wouldn’t be incriminating myself on Facebook.”
In the video, Ruth is wearing a white shirt and tie as he approaches a red light camera. He uses a painter’s extension rod and knocks the camera several times, forcing its focus away from the intersection.
“Basically, a 4-year-old can do it,” he said.
Advocates for cameras that catch red-light runners point to data showing they reduce accidents. Critics note they are income generators for local government and can’t distinguish between running a red-light during rush hour in a school zone and a technically illegal right turn on a red light at 3 a.m.
Nationally, the use of red light cameras has been dropping, according to data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a nonprofit scientific and educational organization funded by the insurance industry.
In 2014, 516 communities employed red light cameras; that number had dropped to 442 as of Wednesday, according to IIHS senior vice president Russ Rader.
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