By Yael Ossowski | Florida Watchdog

ST. PETERSBURG – Red-light cameras are nothing more than a money-making scheme aimed at the poor, state Sen. Daphne Campbell says.

The cameras have nothing to do with actual safety at intersections, the Miami Democrat said.

FREEZE: Campbell is challenging red-light cameras because she says they are illegal and discriminatory against the poor.

“They’ve turned something so simple and elementary into a money business,” she told Florida Watchdog. “People who are poor and have nothing to eat are getting these tickets unjustly and they can’t do anything but pay them.”

Campbell is the author of a bill to ban red-light cameras in the Sunshine State, barring their installation by state, county and local officials.

She initially introduced the bill in the first week of committee hearings in Tallahassee and scored a victory Wednesday when it was assigned to the Economic Affairs Committee.

The bill must be approved by the committee before it is put on the legislative calendar for the beginning of the session.

“I’m working hard to repeal this because everyone is trying to make money on the poor people,” said Campbell. “It’s a scam on the poor people.”

NO MORE: Campbell is insistent that red-light cameras are only used to collect revenue from the people.

Red-light cameras have received a frosty reception in Florida, but that feeling was challenged earlier this month by a study by the state Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, claiming the number of crashes are declining at intersections with red-light cameras.

“A majority of agencies reported decreases in the total number of crashes at red light camera intersections,” the study reads. “Agencies reported that in addition to the decrease in total crashes, traffic safety improved throughout the jurisdiction as drivers were more cautious when approaching all intersections.”

The study was conducted using an online survey completed by Florida law enforcement agencies and the vendors who sell the cameras to cities and counties.

The legality of red-light cameras, however, has been addressed by Florida courts.

In March 2012, Pasco County judge Anne Wansboro dismissed a red-light traffic camera case because the law “impermissibly shifts the burden of proof to the defendant and therefore does not afford due process, and is unconstitutional to the extent due process is not provided.”

Interestingly enough, the state study notes that 70 percent of all citations challenged by defendants are ultimately dismissed by the courts because of “lack of probable cause.”

And that is not a conclusion unique to the Sunshine State.

DAMAGE DONE: A investigation revealed the use of illegal yellow lights in city of Virginia Beach. investigation in Virginia Beach last week found the city was illegally shortening the yellow lights in order to trap more motorists with red-light cameras. The city reset the traffic signals after the investigation was published.

The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles was asked to comment on Campbell’s bill and the doubts raised surrounding red-light cameras, but refused to comment.

“Those cameras are not for safety,” Campbell told Florida Watchdog. “I’m a registered nurse, and I know they’re not for safety. They’re discriminatory against innocent people told they’re guilty by a machine. That’s wrong.

“We need to rally everybody around this issue to really understand what is going on,” she added.