Insurance surveillance cameras arrive in Columbus

The Columbus City Council voted 5 to 1 to allow Securix to install surveillance cameras inside the city to identify and ticket uninsured drivers.
Ward 2 Councilman Joseph Mickens cast the only negative vote.

Securix came to city council in a business session last Thursday, where he asked permission to install cameras that would photograph the license plates of passing drivers. These tag numbers would be checked against a database to see if the car was insured, and if not, a police officer would issue a citation to the driver.

Drivers who have been cited can take their chances in court or pay a $300 fee and participate in a diversion program that will require them to provide proof of insurance and watch an educational video on the need for insurance automobile. The city and the company will share the costs.

The program is at no cost to the city, and Securix would also reimburse city police officers who write tickets up to $25 per hour.

Company representatives estimated that it would take 60 to 90 days to get the cameras, and after that it would take about three weeks to get the system up and running.

The program has sometimes sparked heated debate.

Ward 4 councilor Pierre Beard said he opposed the surveillance aspect of the scheme.

“I’m looking at it a little deeper, and I see we’re being tracked,” Beard said. “I don’t like to be followed. You put so many cameras around, if you have them on Highway 45 and Highway 82, then you know Pierre Beard traveled from 45 to 82.”

Ward 5 Councilman Stephen Jones said cameras already exist.

“There are already tag-reading cameras following you, and (the Mississippi Department of Transportation) already has cameras,” Jones said.

Attorney Robert Wilkinson, who is both the city attorney for Ocean Springs — a city that uses technology — and Securix’s attorney, said there was no follow-up.

“If a car has insurance and that car is not subject to (an Amber Alert, Silver Alert or BOLO), then that photo of that tag is never shown to anyone,” Wilkinson said. “The only people who can watch these videos are your sworn police officers. … If there is no violation, then this tag is not tracked.

Mickens wondered if the cameras were legal.

“We had front cameras,” Mickens said. “We noticed that they were placed in a situation that affected many minorities. It did not work. What is the difference? How does the law allow you to come back with the same system? »

Wilkinson said insurance cameras are legal.

“In 2009, the Legislature passed a bill prohibiting the use of an (automatic license plate reader) or any video recording device to capture anyone running a red light or speeding,” Wilkerson said. . “That’s all he did. An attorney general’s opinion the following year stated that this law was limited to these circumstances. They have been used statewide since that time.

Mickens said he still opposes the program.

“It’s not enough to bring money here,” Mickens said. “There is the burden that we impose on the citizens of this community, which is not a wealthy region. We have citizens who live hand to mouth. We always say it’s free, but it’s not free. It will cost someone.

Mayor Keith Gaskin also spoke out against the program.

“Programs like this can have unintended consequences,” Gaskin said. “The dynamic of our city is different from Ocean Springs. I’ve spoken to people who would love to have auto insurance, but have to choose between getting insurance or putting food on the table for their family.

“I’m not comfortable putting something like this in our city right now,” he added. “I understand that we are looking for resources, but it could also have a detrimental impact on a large part of our citizens.”

Jones introduced a motion, seconded by Ward 3 Councilman Rusty Greene, to allow Securix to implement his program, with proceeds from the program going to the Columbus Police Department “for augments and equipment”.

Mickens moved a superseding motion, seconded by Ward 6 Councilwoman Jacqueline DiCicco, to file the request. It fell 4-2, with Ward 1 Councilor Ethel Taylor Stewart, Greene, Beard and Jones voting no and Mickens and DiCicco in favour.

Jones’ original motion later carried 5-1, with Mickens voting no.

Comments are closed.