Natchez council to vote on repeal of traffic camera speed enforcement

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Nathan Wilson
Natchez residents will have an opportunity to voice their opinions about allowing traffic camera operators to enforce speed limits within the Village at a special called meeting of the council at 6 p.m. Aug. 18. The proposal to eliminate camera enforcement will be introduced for debate before the village’s aldermen vote on the resolution Sept 1.
Mayor Patsy Ward-Hoover expresses frustration with the hefty fees the company that provides traffic enforcement, Michel and Pratt Consulting, charges for the service. “We pay the company $54. Then we pay another $20 for the staffing. Then we pay another $20 for PD: that’s them having it up on the internet where you can pay,” she says. “It’s people trying to make money, and small communities that don’t have revenue are falling for it.”
Alderman Sheila Johnson stated the decision to review the city’s use of traffic cameras is an initiative of the recently elected mayor. “I’m for the camera system,” she says.
As mayor, Ward-Hoover is unable to vote on the resolution but explains her push for a vote is based on village residents’ concerns. “The same officers that are hired by the village to do the policing of our community, they’re the same people out there using the camera,” she says. “They’re doing more camera (enforcement), but they are not policing the community, and that’s what is the concern of the people.” She’s also worried about the village’s reputation. “If we don’t be careful we’re going to be branded as a speed trap community, and if we’re trying to bring businesses to our community we certainly don’t want that.”

This article published in the Aug. 18, 2022, print edition.

Ward-Hoover also questions the consequences of refusing to pay the traffic tickets versus the reality. “This is a private company that does that,” she says. “It’s civil tickets, so if you say I’m not paying my ticket, you don’t have to pay.” She says the company relies on debt collection tools to enforce payments. “They’ll tell you that they’re going to send it to a credit bureau,” she says. “We’re trying to figure out how are you to send something to a credit bureau that you didn’t even have the authority (or) a contract to even be in that town doing anything.”
Alderman McKindley Hoover believes the cameras should be replaced with active patrol officers. “I oppose the cameras. I prefer seeing the police out there working,” he says. He explains his position is based on an interest in maintaining public safety. “The man out there with the camera, he’s locked into wherever he’s stationed,” he says. “He can’t answer calls or anything. He’s not in a police car. He’s in a personal vehicle.” Hoover insists this a problem from a public safety standpoint. “You don’t know who’s driving the car. You don’t know what crimes he may have just committed down the street and (he’s) trying to get away,” he says. “With that traffic cam, you’re locked into a traffic citation only. That’s all he can do.”
With two of the aldermen having already made up their minds, the decisive vote will come down to alderman Monique Sarpy. She expressed that she is unwilling to speak on her position until the resolution is finalized and presented at Thursday’s meeting, leaving the fate of the traffic cameras anyone’s guess.
Alderman Hoover wants to see residents attend the meeting to hear the issued debated. “I encourage all of them to come out to the meeting. They’ll be able to get firsthand information. It won’t be hearsay,” he says. “(If) they have any concerns, any questions they want to ask, they’ll be able to do so at that time.”