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Traffic enforcement cameras

A speed-enforcement camera is shown on northbound Interstate 29 in Sioux City in April 2014. City leaders said Thursday they expect the Iowa Legislature to ban the use of the cameras on state-controlled roads such as I-29.

SIOUX CITY | Sioux City police say they have ways of getting around a new South Dakota law designed to keep that state's drivers from getting ticketed by automated traffic cameras.

The law that took effect Tuesday says South Dakota cannot provide information about its registered drivers to companies such as Redflex, which operates traffic cameras in Sioux City, for the purpose of collecting civil fines from the camera systems.

Without vehicle registration information, Arizona-based Redflex can't send a bill to the owner of a vehicle caught on camera speeding or running a red light.

Sioux City has two speed cameras on Interstate 29 and 11 red-light cameras at nine intersections. Two of the latter are temporarily out of service during construction on Gordon Drive.

The new law doesn't absolve South Dakotans from paying civil fines for traffic camera infractions. It simply prohibits the state from sharing data used to collect the fines.

Sioux City Police Chief Doug Young said that's not a problem. Police have ways to get the information for Redflex.

"People in South Dakota need to understand that this is not a free pass that you've gotten from your government," he said.

He wouldn't say how police would get the information.

"We're looking at our options," Young said.

South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard signed House Bill 1122 into law in March. It says information about motorists available to law enforcement through mutual aid agreements cannot be shared for the collection of civil fines that result from traffic camera tickets.

South Dakota Sen. Dan Lederman, R-Dakota Dunes, was the prime sponsor of the Senate version of the bill. Lederman, who owns a business and works in Sioux City, has said a major problem with traffic camera tickets is that they are mailed to the owner of the vehicle captured by the camera, not necessarily the driver allegedly caught speeding.

Officials also had concerns about the way Sioux City's system requires drivers to prove they're innocent rather than making the city prove that a driver is guilty, Matt Konenkamp, a Daugaard policy adviser, said last week.

If South Dakotans do get an out-of-state camera-generated ticket in the mail, they should either pay it or fight it in court, Konenkamp said.

South Dakota was able to block Redflex from getting registration information by placing new restrictions on how the National Law Enforcement Telecommunications System, or NLETS, can share the state's information. Redflex used the database to bill for traffic violations. Law enforcement agencies also use NLETS.

Non-law-enforcement companies, including Redflex, are no longer allowed to access South Dakota's vehicle registration data on NLETS for the purpose of collecting civil traffic fines.

Police will still be allowed to use the data. However, if police try to use NLETS to obtain vehicle owner information to collect civil traffic fines, South Dakota officials will report them to the nonprofit that oversees the database.

"We know where the requests are coming from and if they're from law-enforcement agencies regarding violations caught on traffic cameras," Lederman said.

Sioux City police haven't decided how they'll get the information, but Young was confident it could be obtained.

"We get the registrations, we find out who the drivers are, they get a ticket whether they live in South Dakota, North Dakota, or wherever," Young said. "It's business as usual."

-- Journal staff writers T.J. Fowler and Conrad Swanson contributed to this report.

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