YAPHANK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Police on Long Island have arrested the so-called “Red Light Robin Hood” after he admitted to vandalizing dozens of red light cameras.
Stephen Ruth is charged with two counts of second-degree criminal mischief for damaging 19 red light cameras throughout Suffolk County, police said. He’s due in court later Tuesday.
Speaking exclusively to CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff on Monday, Ruth said he damaged multiple cameras over the weekend by cutting the wires.
“I cut the cable wires, making it useless,” Ruth said. “I’ve made it dysfunctional, just like the whole red light camera program.”
Ruth said the cameras create dangerous conditions at intersections. He also claims they were installed to generate traffic ticket revenue for the county.
“We’re not going to put up with short yellow light trickery forever,” he said. “Too many people have gotten killed.”
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.”
WEB EXTRA: Carolyn Gusoff’s Full Interview With Stephen Ruth:
In addition to the 18 cameras that were damaged over the weekend, police said Ruth also cut down a red light camera pole at County Road 83 and Old Town Road in Coram on Jan. 18.
Preliminary estimates put the damage at a cost of a minimum of $25,000, but Suffolk County Police Commissioner Tim Sini said it could be much more.
“Estimated damage, at this point, could be as high as $100,000, even higher,” he said. “You have the right to protest, but you do not have the right to violate the law and destroy public property.”
Crews are now splicing back together the cut wires on those cameras across Suffolk County.
Legislator Rob Trotta wants the program re-evaluated because drivers are slamming on the breaks to avoid getting tickets and getting hurt instead. However, Trotta believes Ruth went about it the wrong way.
“This muddies the water. Clearly when you have someone committing crimes to justify something, that defeats the whole purpose,” Trotta said.
Ruth, who is free on $1,500 bail, said the legislative process wasn’t moving fast enough.
“After so many speeches to the legislature and them turning a blind eye to it, over and over, and me saying it would cause injury and death, it seems like this was the only way for this to get attention to the issue,” Ruth said. “I’m not afraid of jail. One life, it’s worth it.
If convicted, Ruth could face up to seven years in prison, WCBS 880’s Mike Xirinachs reported.
Ruth, of Centereach, has been arrested in the past for tampering with cameras.
In October of last year, he was charged with criminal tampering and obstruction for using an extension rod to push several red light cameras in Ronkonkoma up to the sky so they could not catch violators.
Police said they are looking into whether Ruth had accomplices.