In the above-embedded video, 42-year-old Long Island, N.Y. man Stephen Ruth can be seen demonstrating how to disable a local red light enforcement camera with a painter’s extension rod. On Tuesday, after seeing the video, Suffolk County police arrested Ruth, who allegedly tampered with four red light cameras, and charged him with four counts of second-degree obstruction of governmental administration and four counts of third-degree criminal tampering. Following his arrest, Ruth was released and given a desk appearance ticket for the charges, which are misdemeanors.
However, Ruth, who says he disabled the cameras as an act of protest after receiving six tickets, is not apologizing for his actions. “Well, I knew I was going to get arrested. I did it because the abuse has got to stop,” he said.
“[The red light cameras are] abusive. People are making full stops and they’re still getting tickets. Make a right after making sure no one is coming on the left, and you still get the ticket in the mail,” said Ruth in comments to NBC 4 New York.
Reporters from local Long Island news outlet Newsday noted that, as they interviewed Ruth along the side of a roadway near where he disabled one of the cameras, drivers passing by cheered him on and referred to him by the name “Red Light Robin Hood.”
Suffolk Police Commanding Officer Milagros Soto disagrees with the notion that Ruth is a hero and commented, “[The red light cameras are] placed at specific locations where there’s been high rates of crashes. Tampering with these cameras is a crime.”
However, red light enforcement cameras have become a source of nationwide controversy as more states and municipalities ban their use. Opponents view the devices as ineffective for public safety and motivated by maximizing government revenues accrued through fines.
The New York Times points out that “growing opposition among motorists and elected leaders has led many communities to eliminate their programs… Nationally, the number of communities with red-light camera programs dropped to 442 this month from a peak of 533 in 2012, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.”
The Suffolk County cameras are administered by the Baltimore, Md. company Affiliated Computer Services Incorporated.
“I did it for the people who come back from war and get abused by these cameras. I did it because senior citizens are getting these [tickets], the same ones that went to war for us,” said Stephen Ruth, explaining why he disabled the cameras.