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Buffalo's use of speed cameras may be getting legally challenged

WBFO File Photo

The City of Buffalo’s implementation of school zone speeding cameras is drawing sharp criticism, which handed out nearly 35,000 violations worth $1.7 million in its first week alone. A local attorney is now speaking out saying he thinks the cameras might be unconstitutional.

Only a quarter of the city’s 20 school camera zones are active, but with the high amount of revenue the city is pulling in, many in the community are seeing the action as a money grab, with attorney Kevin Stocker even questioning the legal basis for them.

“There's no due process," Stocker said. "You’re faced with a machine that you can’t cross examine, you don’t know if it's calibrated properly. You’re dealing with a private entity [Sensys Gatso] that’s sharing revenue with the city. There’s all sorts of tax issues and constitutional issues there.” 

Massachusetts-based company Sensys Gatso recently sent out citations past the statutory 14-day window, leading 20,000 void or refundable. The issue has left the Common Council divided, with some saying it’s about children safety. Stocker disagrees.

Credit WBFO File Photo
Kevin T. Stocker has been practicing law in WNY for 25 years.

“It’s about money, that’s all it’s about, it has nothing to do with safety," said Stocker. "And when you can’t pay tickets, like say you’re struggling because of COVID and you’ve been layed off or your hours have been limited, and you have an economic hardship. This is going to the people hardest hit by this COVID.” 

Mayor Byron Brown used his first ever veto since taking office in 2006 to block the council vote to have cameras on only for drop-off and pickup, with some cameras remaining on throughout the school day, even until 6pm.

A recent compromise between the council and the mayor’s office restored that arrival and dismissal window, but with the cameras being allowed to activate for certain after hour school events.

Several states, including New Jersey, New Hampshire, and Texas prohibit the use of speeding cameras. In August of 2019, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation specifically allowing the City of Buffalo to establish cameras in school zones without the need for a police officer to be present.

Stocker said he soon will be filing a lawsuit against the city and Common Council over the use of speed cameras, but admitted that challenge will take time. 

Ryan Zunner joined WBFO in the summer of 2018 as an intern, before working his way up to reporter the following summer.
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