Problems with new school zone cameras leave Kaufman County residents bugged

- You probably know all about red light cameras and school bus cameras. Now some cities and counties are setting up similar cameras in school zones.

But according to some, including law enforcement officials, there are concerns. It was bugging them, so they contacted "What's Buggin' You" for help.

Three unmanned vehicles and two mobile kiosks equipped with cameras are rotated daily at 12 schools across Kaufman County.

Two images of the offending vehicle’s license plate are captured, along with the location of the violation and speed of the vehicle. The owner is then sent a speeding ticket with a $150 fine.

The school zone camera program was narrowly approved by Kaufman County commissioners in October of 2014.

According to the county, the cameras are supposed to be set up in school zones and only active during the morning and afternoon hours on school days. But Kaufman County Precinct 3 Constable Keith Stephens said that’s not what’s happening.

“They’re here to strictly generate revenue,” he said. “The school zone starts at this sign right here and goes in front of the high school probably about 200 to 300 yards, but it’s set up here on Poetry Road where it’s not even a school zone.”

Constable Stephens said other drivers are getting tickets in the mail for reportedly going over the speed limit outside of school zone hours.

According to American Traffic Solutions, the company that runs the cameras, about 2,900 tickets have been issued so far. The county has collected about $100,000 in fines.

Stephens said he’s put the cameras to the test. He got a ticket for speeding at 12:36 p.m., when school zones are not in effect. He ended up contesting the ticket and it was dismissed.

The constable said he is not in favor of speeders, but is against the way the county is going about catching them.

“They should know that if they get one, they need to ask for a court date because when they ask for a court date it’s going to get dismissed,” he said.

Judge Bruce Woods wouldn’t talk on camera about the controversial cameras, but in a written statement to FOX 4 he said the cameras are meant to “enhance the safety of over 25,000 school students that attend classes in Kaufman County each day.”

He said the district attorney has advised him not to respond to any other questions due to possible litigation.

In December when FOX 4 started asking questions, county commissioners called a special meeting. But it’s not clear what was discussed because it was an executive session.

As for the violations on Poetry Road issued outside the school zone, the county said those tickets have been voided and the camera was moved.

If the county decided to ditch cameras, it would have to fork over a hefty fine to get out of a 10-year contract.

Neighboring Smith County suspended a similar school zone program because of legal questions.

State Sen. Bob Hall, whose district covers those two counties, said he’s requested an opinion from the attorney general. He also plans to introduce legislation next session to make these cameras illegal across the state.

If you have something that’s bugging you, call Saul Garza at 214-468-7458. You can also send an email to buggin@kdfwfox4.com.

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