Long Island man proud of arrest for tampering with red light cameras

RONKONKOMA, N.Y. (WABC) -- A Long Island man facing criminal charges for tampering with several red light cameras said that he knew he would be arrested after posting video of his actions online but that it was done in protest of government abuse.

"It's abusive, it's gotta stop," said Stephen Ruth, who says he fully expected to get arrested.

"I'm gonna show you how easy it is to take the power back!", he said in a YouTube video.

He posted the video showing people how to disable Suffolk County's red light cameras by pointing them into the clouds.

"Take your extension rod, point it under the camera and you point it off," he said in the video.

Ruth admits disabling two cameras on the expressway service road in Ronkonkoma. Cameras that should have been recording the road instead were recording the sky.

Ruth says he's fed up with getting tickets for what he claims are legal right-hand turns. "You look left to make sure you're clear, you're clear, you make your right and you still get a ticket after you make a complete stop," he said. "I can understand if you blow a red light, then by all means you should get a ticket. But when you make a right on red after making a full stop and still receive a ticket, it's abuse."

Disabling the cameras, he says, was an act of civil disobedience. "I call it breaking the law," said Lieutenant Milagros Soto of the Suffolk County Police, who says the law simply requires motorists to make a full stop, unlike one driver Wednesday who rolled right through the light.

Kathy Ryder got a ticket this year, but she doesn't have much sympathy for Stephen Ruth.

"Obviously I didn't stop long enough, according to the ticket,' she said.

"If he's not stopping then he should get the ticket, absolutely," said motorist Bill Haiduk. ("But he says he is," we said.) "I'd like to see the footage," said Haiduk.

"It's abuse on the hard-working American and with the taxes we pay, it's not necessary," Ruth told reporters, a day after his arrest on charges of criminal tampering and obstruction of governmental administration. He was released on a desk appearance ticket after his arrest by Suffolk County police, who said they received anonymous tips about Ruth's social media post.

Ruth, a 42-year-old landlord from Long Island, said he became fed up after receiving "more than" six tickets for red light camera violations. Suffolk County police said Ruth has been issued 10 such violations since 2010.

"Naturally, I thought I was going to be arrested," he said of the tampering charge. "I thought it was a cause I was willing to fight for, and I am still willing to fight for, otherwise I wouldn't be incriminating myself on Facebook."

Advocates for cameras that catch red-light runners point to data showing they reduce accidents. Critics note they are income generators for local government and can't distinguish between running a red-light during rush hour in a school zone and a technically illegal right turn on a red light at 3 a.m.

Nationally, the use of red light cameras has been dropping, according to data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a nonprofit scientific and educational organization funded by the insurance industry.

In 2014, 516 communities employed red light cameras; that number had dropped to 442 as of Wednesday, according to IIHS senior vice president Russ Rader.

Related Story: Man charged with tampering with red light cameras in Ronkonkoma

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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