A New York man known as the Red Light Robin Hood was arrested again this month after cutting wires to red light cameras where yellow light duration times were shortened by the city in order to generate more citations and revenue.
The shortened durations at the traffic lights generate $32 million for Suffolk County, which is why the county allows the practice to continue despite their own study showing they lead to an increase in accidents with injuries.
PINAC’s Theresa Richard reported about Stephen Ruth back in February after seeing videos he posted on Facebook that prove the lights near the cameras trick drivers into citations.
At that point, Ruth had already been arrested in August for using a painter’s extension rod to point the cameras towards the sky.
On April 11, he went a little further and cut wires to 18 cameras.
“I cut the cable wires, making it useless. I’ve made it dysfunctional, just like the whole red-light camera program,” said Ruth during a local interview.
“I did it in order to save lives.”
And after he cut the wires, he called the news to cover his act of civil disobedience, which resulted in his arrest after police received pressure from politicians. Ruth said police and sheriff deputies support him, because they’re aware of the shortened yellow lights.
Some may even testify on his behalf if his case goes to trial. When he was in jail for his most recent arrest, a sheriff’s deputy even offered to bail him out.
But after receiving attention from local residents and media, Ruth discovered a government entity mounted a camera outside of his home on a telephone pole just like the one LaVoy Finicum took down during the standoff with the government at a National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon.
But Ruth doesn’t know exactly where it came from.
“The only reason the government is so concerned about me is because I proved that they shortened the yellow lights to generate revenue and killed a lot of innocent people,” said Stephen Ruth just before he painted over the camera with a painter’s extension pole.
Ruth currently faces 22 years in prison for tampering of public property and obstructing government administration, but relies on his faith and stated he’s on a mission from God to save lives.
Ruth said that a car tried to hit him head-on and narrowly missed his vehicle. Upon talking to neighbors, they described a similar vehicle with similar occupants staking out his house and lurking around his neighborhood.
He said someone could be trying to kill him, although he said he could be wrong.
“The only way they can keep this from gaining national attention is to get rid of me,” he said.
If you think Ruth may be paranoid, consider the case of John Lang, a traffic-light scam whistleblower in Fresno, California who posted on Facebook that police were trying to kill him just days before he was found stabbed to death in his burned down house.
Police ruled his death a suicide.
If Suffolk County’s contract with Xerox is any indication of what other cities’ contracts with Xerox look like, the problem extends much farther than Suffolk County. So Ruth’s “paranoia” might not be paranoia at all.
In Suffolk County, yellow lights at 50 intersections with cameras were shortened in 2011 after state legislators approved the cameras to be installed in 2010. In 2012, 50 more cameras were installed at intersections, which increased revenue by $17 million.
The video below, shot by Ruth, shows the duration of a yellow light at an intersection with no cameras to be five seconds compared to the duration of a yellow light at an intersection with a camera to be three seconds.
That two-second reduction has netted millions of extra dollars for the county and Xerox, the publicly-owned company that contracts the cameras.
Ruth pointed out some cameras that were put up have been taken down after they fell short of daily contract-quota with Xerox to produce 25 citations, per camera, between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., which costs Suffolk County $2,132 per day, according to the Xerox contract with the county.
Xerox collects $13 from Suffolk County for each ticket, which increases to $33 per ticket when a camera generates more than 90 tickets in a month.
Ruth pointed out that the vast majority of cameras were placed in lower to middle class neighborhoods.
“I’m on 25A and Setauket and you can see that there’s no cameras to be found. Lower class neighborhoods are loaded with cameras. But if you drive through Setauket, you won’t see any cameras. Why are they all over the lower and middle class neighborhoods? That’s what we want to know,” he stated in a video seen below.
Another vexing problem for Ruth is the coverage the issue has gotten from local news, specifically News12, which is owned by CableVision who provides the internet service to the cameras at the lights.
When victims of the lights went to News12 about the deaths of their family members due to the shortened lights, News12 interviewed them, but never ran the story. And while other local media outlets report from Ruth’s point of view and most of the public’s, News12 has painted Ruth a criminal.
When the news failed to investigate some of the deaths at intersections with shortened lights, Ruth took his own camera to document the light-duration times at the scene of the deaths. When he arrived, he recorded a light-duration of three seconds at an intersection where it was previously five seconds.
“I saw the crosses and thought I was in the right place.”
However, when he determined he was actually at the wrong location, he went to the correct location the following day and found the same thing, again – a light shortened from five seconds to three where a person was killed.
Ruth’s energy and persistence on social media and news media have gained the yellow light issue local support and he’s spoken on behalf of victim’s families to representatives urging them to discontinue the program. His supporters consist of a variety of groups from judges to cops to just about everyone in Suffolk County.
Meanwhile, Ruth’s support seems to be growing everywhere but the U.S., where it has remained mostly specific to Suffolk County. He posted a screen shot on his Facebook page of folks from England calling him a “hero” and saying they “idolize” him.
“I’m even getting messages from Australia,” Ruth told PINAC.
When asked if he was afraid of the possibility of jail he said, “I’m willing to go to jail for doing what’s right.”
Ruth said one of his hero’s is MLK, who he shares a birthday with on January 15.
“You gotta love a guy like that. He was willing to go to jail to do what’s right.”
“I’m just trying to save lives. I spend Christmases delivering flowers to the cemetery, because nobody wants to work on Christmas. I get orders from all around the world from people ordering flowers to put on graves. I take my son and tell him to note the ages of the people who died fighting for our country. And they come back to this?”
So we asked what he’d like to see come from risking his own life and freedom to save the lives of others and expose the traffic light scandal.
“I want people to go to jail.”
Ironically, at this point in time, Stephen Ruth is the only person facing jail time for “crimes” related to the Suffolk County yellow light scandal.