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9 Miss. Cities Eyeing Cameras at Intersections -- Tupelo, Southaven Plans Ahead of Rest

Feb 2, 2007

By Associated Press

TUPELO - At least nine Mississippi cities are following Tupelo's lead to consider traffic cameras at intersections, raising the possibility that the camera-free state soon could go high tech from the hills to the coast.

In the weeks since state Atty. Gen. Jim Hood OK'd Tupelo's request to implement the devices, other cities have followed suit from Biloxi to Oxford. All are in various stages of investigating a program similar to the one Tupelo leaders want.

Some, like Biloxi and Columbus, are still in the fact-finding phases. Others, like Southaven and Tupelo, have passed city ordinances to allow camera enforcement and plan to have the devices installed before summer.

"The main reason we're doing it is a public safety issue," said Southaven Mayor Greg Davis, whose city is meeting with two camera vendors this month. "We have some intersections with high fatality rates mainly due to failure to obey traffic signals, so we're hoping with cameras that more people will pay more attention to intersection lights."

Tupelo leaders have met with American Traffic Solutions, an Arizona-based vendor, and likely will sign a contract soon for the company to monitor several dangerous intersections. Drivers who run red lights will get civil citations. The violations will not affect their auto insurance or driver's license record.

The sudden interest in camera programs can be attributed to three things, said Glenn McCullough Jr., former Tupelo mayor and past chairman of the Tennessee Valley Authority.

"Leaders in municipalities in Mississippi respect public safety," he said. "I also give a lot of credit to Atty. Gen. Hood, who sees that public safety is the primary responsibility of his office. And third, you now have technology that does not infringe on anyone's rights ... "

A fourth reason also might be McCullough's own interest in seeing American Traffic Solutions' presence expand. McCullough is a consultant for the vendor and said he's called cities in the state to help open the door for ATS.

"I represent American Traffic Solutions in Mississippi, and I think their technology is the best," he said.

McCullough's word convinced Columbus chief operations officer David Armstrong to consider the vendor. Armstrong scheduled an interview with ATS for next week.

State Rep. Steve Holland, D-Plantersville, however, thinks Tupelo and other cities considering the program have been "sold a bill of goods by the former mayor," referring to McCullough, whom he described as a "slick salesman." Holland said there are better ways to stop red-light running than spying on drivers.

But leaders in the interested cities say that's exactly what the cameras could help them do.

"People will worry about the Big Brother factor, but people need to remember that driving on public roads is not a right, it's a privilege," Biloxi spokesman Vincent Creel said. "And we want to do everything we can to make that drive safer."

(c) 2007 Commercial Appeal, The. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.

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