NEWARK — Someone with a gun is apparently settling scores with those red-light traffic cameras so reviled by New Jersey motorists.
Two of the devices were shot in Newark today, police said.
Red-light cameras at the intersections of Broad and Murray streets and Broad Street and Raymond Boulevard were given the same treatment as that ill-fated hotel room TV that enraged Elvis.
"The Newark Police Department is in the early stages of their investigation into the circumstances surrounding the damaging of two of the city’s red-light photo cameras," Detective Todd McClendon, a police spokesman, said. "The cameras were struck by apparent gunfire during the early morning hours."
The cameras were disabled after the shootings, but were being repaired today, he said. There were no injuries and police had not identified a suspect. The cameras were expected to be up and running again shortly.
Newark is home to 19 of the 85 red-light cameras in New Jersey.
They are polarizing devices. Motorists and some politicians consider them Big Brother contraptions that are little more than a money grab by municipalities. Mayors and some police officers tout them as devices that reduce accidents while bringing much needed revenue to towns.
On June 19, the state announced it was suspending 63 of the cameras — including all 19 in Newark — over concerns amber lights did not give motorists enough time to get through intersections. The suspension was lifted July 25 after the state said all cameras were found to meet standards.
Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon (R-Monmouth) wants to ban the red-light cameras, but didn’t condone treating them like target practice.
"People feeling that frustrated about these automated tax machines — just wait a little while," he said. "The truth will win out in the end, and we’ll get rid of them."
Mohamed Diallo, a sunglasses and purse vendor at the corner of Broad and Raymond, is used to seeing work crews perform maintenance on the red-light camera. But he has never seen the crews phone police to remove something from the camera case and put it in a plastic evidence bag.
Three large bullet holes pierced the side of the black box housing the camera that pointed south on Broad.
Diallo said he didn’t notice anything wrong until a fleet of police cars arrived about 5 p.m. today.
"Somebody," he said, "was really angry at the camera."