COMMACK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A Suffolk County man admits he has broken the law repeatedly, but he said his actions have all been intended to make a big point about the injustice of red light cameras.
As CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported exclusively Monday, Stephen Ruth – who calls himself “the Red Light Robin Hood” – struck again just as lawmakers in Suffolk County demanded that the controversial red-light camera program be called off.
CBS2 has spoken to Ruth, of Centereach, in the past after he was arrested several times for tampering with cameras, which he called a money grab. Previously, he used an extension rod to turn the camera in Ronkonkoma toward the sky. This time, he went much farther and had no apologies for it.
“I cut the cable wires, making it useless,” Ruth said. “I’ve made it dysfunctional, just like the whole red-light camera program.”
Ruth was arrested last year after going public with a “how to” video on disabling red light cameras. On Monday, he showed CBS2 how he spent the weekend.
Ruth said he sliced apart the wires in the base of a red-light camera pole.
“Yes I did,” Ruth said, “in order to save lives.”
Ruth said he damaged dozens of cameras by cutting the wires.
“As many as I can do,” he said. “I don’t know exactly how many, but I venture to say it was somewhere in the neighborhood of 20, 30 cameras.”
Ruth claimed he is crusading against a county money grab .
“We’re not going to put up with short yellow light trickery forever,” he said. “Too many people have gotten killed.”
Ruth’s actions are not condoned by Suffolk County lawmakers. But they come just as some lawmakers are calling for a suspension of the program to reevaluate whether it is doing more harm than good.
New data shows that at about half of the intersections with red-light cameras in Suffolk County, accidents with injuries are up. At two Commack intersections, accidents doubled.
“How can you say it’s about safety, when their own report says it’s a hundred percent increase?” said Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga). “This is taxation by citation.”
But the report also showed that overall, total crashes involving injuries are down 4 percent at red-light camera intersections. County officials said the types of accidents that are happening and being prevented shows the cameras save lives.
“You will often see a pickup in rear-end accidents, but the trade-off you get is that decrease in the right-angle accidents. Those are the ones that are sending people to the morgue,” said Deputy Suffolk County Executive Jon Schneider.
But Ruth claims he has found legal flaws in the program that justify his acts.
“They call it a crime. I call it saving lives,” he said. “I never hid from my actions. I believe in what I’m doing, and I’m only trying to save lives.”
CBS2 asked Suffolk police for comment, and the commissioner acknowledged “reports of vandalism and destruction of property occurring over the weekend at a number of locations…. These crimes are …under investigation.”
“The only way I’m going to have a fair say is in front of a jury of my peers,” Ruth said. “That’s why that’s where I’m going.”
The ending to Ruth’s story is still untold. He plans to surrender to police.
Legislator Trotta, who is proposing suspending the red light camera program, told CBS2 he is appalled by Ruth actions and wants him prosecuted.