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Toledo motorists receive refunds for improper speeding tickets

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    A police officer holds a handheld speed camera. Toledo sent refunds totaling nearly $34,000 for 270 speeding tickets issued at one location on Glendale Avenue.

    The Blade/Andy Morrison
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    Toledo Police Chief George Kral

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    Toledo councilman Rob Ludeman

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It was the city of Toledo writing checks this week to motorists rather than the other way around.

The administration sent refunds totaling nearly $34,000 for 270 speeding tickets issued this year through April 13 at one location in South Toledo with its lucrative handheld speed camera devices, according to records obtained Wednesday by The Blade.

VIDEO: Blade Briefing on speeding ticket refunds

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A police officer holds a handheld speed camera. Toledo sent refunds totaling nearly $34,000 for 270 speeding tickets issued at one location on Glendale Avenue.

The Blade/Andy Morrison
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An additional 174 tickets listed in default or sent to a collection agency because the speeders did not pay up — which increased each fine from $120 to $145 — were forgiven, meaning the city won’t try to collect fines that total about $25,000, city spokesman Janet Schroeder said.

Toledo police Chief George Kral earlier this month said more than 100 people nailed on Feb. 1 for speeding on Glendale Avenue in the school zone of Byrnedale school would have their fines refunded because the officer ticketing people was in the wrong position. The chief also said the city would conduct a review of signs at all school zones to avoid more mistakes.

At-large Toledo Councilman Rob Ludeman and his wife had tickets from that morning dismissed after the citations were handed over to the chief.

RELATED CONTENT: Blade editorial — “Fixed” ticket ■ Toledo to refund 100-plus spurious speeding tickets ■ Out-of-town drivers fill Toledo's speed camera coffers ■ Councilman Ludeman's speeding ticket dismissed by Toledo police

Mr. Ludeman, who is running for re-election this year, said the Feb. 1 tickets — issued with handheld speed cameras — were dismissed because neither he nor his wife, Elaine, were in the school zone.

“In full disclosure, I didn't ask the chief to fix our tickets,” Mr. Ludeman said. “I just showed him where the officer was standing in relation to our ticket and he said, ‘Oh my gosh, he is ticketing people not in the school zone.’ ”

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Toledo councilman Rob Ludeman

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Mr. Ludeman added: “I think it is prudent to refund because the speed cameras have always been controversial and if officers are not positioned properly it just makes a bad situation overall.”

Those tickets and thousands of others issued with the handheld devices became known after The Blade reviewed the controversial program.

Toledo police Lt. Jeff Sulewski said The Blade's story highlighted the need to review all tickets issued Jan. 1 through April 13 in front of Byrnedale, not just from the same day Mr. Ludeman was incorrectly ticketed.

“We started to get people inquiring about that zone and people who got tickets in that zone,” Lieutenant Sulewski said. “We were pretty sure it was confined to a couple of days — just when the councilman was ticketed — but because of the controversy that was generated, we decided to just get rid of everything up until April.”

Lieutenant Sulewski said the 20 mph speed sign on Glendale was not placed properly at the start of the school zone. He said tickets through April were revoked because he alerted all traffic officers to be cognizant of the school zone boundaries that month.

“We were getting more and more challenges and one of the hearing officers said that we might want to to take a look at this school zone because he was getting an abnormal amount of challenges,” Lieutenant Sulewski said.

Under an agreement with Redflex Traffic Systems — the Arizona firm that also maintains Toledo's stationary-camera system and keeps a percentage of those fines — the city is paid $90.25 for the first 50 paid tickets each month and $100 for every ticket after that each month from each handheld device.

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Toledo Police Chief George Kral

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Lieutenant Sulewski said the city would not get back any of the money sent to the company for the revoked tickets. At least $8,880 was sent to Redflex for refunded or forgiven tickets.

Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson earlier this year said the fines were primarily coming from out-of-towners speeding through the city.

Records show nearly 46 percent of the tickets were sent to Toledoans between Jan. 1 and May 26. The Blade requested the information on May 29 and it was released by the city on June 23.

Toledo Police issued 29,615 tickets with the handheld devices during that period. Of those citations, 13,574 were sent to the registered owners of vehicles with Toledo mailing addresses.

The citations also went to 1,281 vehicle owners from Perrysburg, 1,261 from Sylvania, 752 from Oregon, 706 from Maumee, and 235 from Bowling Green. The data showed 772 addresses from Tulsa, Okla., nearly all with the same street address — a vehicle rental company.

The mayor budgeted $2.3 million from fines this year generated by handheld speed cameras.

The city collected $1.84 million by the end of May, putting it on track to collect more than $4.3 million by the end of 2017, if the same numbers of speeders are given tickets monthly through year’s end.

Part of that money has already been spent. Toledo council approved the mayor’s plan to spend $250,000 more to hire new police officers a month earlier this year, from August to July.

Contact Ignazio Messina at imessina@theblade.com or 419-724-6171 or on Twitter @IgnazioMessina.

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