MINEOLA, N.Y. (AP) — A suburban New York man facing criminal charges after police say he tampered with several red light cameras said he knew he would be arrested after posting video of his actions online, declaring it was done in protest of what he called government abuse.
"It's abuse on the hard-working American and with the taxes we pay; it's not necessary," Stephen Ruth told reporters Wednesday, a day after his arrest on charges of criminal tampering and obstruction of governmental administration. He was released on a desk appearance ticket following his arrest Tuesday by Suffolk County police, who said they received anonymous tips about Ruth's actions appearing on social media.
The 42-year-old Long Island man, who described himself as a landlord, said he became fed up after receiving six tickets for red light camera violations.
"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."
In the video, Ruth is wearing a white shirt and tie as he approaches a red light camera. He proceeds to use a painter's extension rod and knocks the camera several times, forcing its focus away from the intersection.
"Basically, a 4-year-old can do it," he said.
Advocates for cameras that catch red-light runners point to data showing they reduce accidents, while 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 were employing red light cameras; that number has dropped to 442 as of Wednesday, according to IIHS senior vice president Russ Rader.