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Print and Web Reviews

Beating Red Light Camera With Spray Could Be Illegal

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Red light cameras are supposed to stop motorists from running the lights. But, what if there was a way to fool them? What if you could make your car vanish from the camera's eye?

NBC 10's Consumer Alert found a photo blocker spray that is supposed to beat the camera -- but is it legal?

With the cooperation of the police department, Consumer Alert tried it out on the NBC 10 News cars. We ran a red light, but never got a ticket.

Before the experiment, we sprayed out the license plate with the photo blocker. The spray is supposed to have anti-flash protection that reflects photo-radar flash.

Wilmington police said the whole idea of the spray frustrates them.

"It promotes criminal behavior. It permits individuals to run through red lights," said Cpl. Steve Martelli of the Wilmington Police.

The man who sells the spray over the Internet, Joe Scott, would not go on camera, but said over the phone that his spray isn't meant to break the law. It is meant to protect motorists from a system he says is stacked against them.

"Machines should not be out there enforcing and finding you guilty without even going to court," Scott said.

Scott also said motorists have a right to privacy. But a privacy advocate disagrees.

"If you intend to racially profile, if you intend to catch tax cheats, if you intend to use it in a divorce case (that's another story). But if you're enforcing the law, it's not a privacy issue, it's an issue of violating the law," said John Featherman.

In Philadelphia, running red lights is a common sight -- especially on some of the side streets. City councilman Frank Rizzo spearheaded the effort to put red light cameras in Philadelphia. The city expects to install them in the next few months.

Rizzo knows all about photo blocker, but he said consumers shouldn't waste their money on it.

"During state inspection there will be technology that's part of the inspection process that if you have photo blocker on your license plate you may not even drive out with a license plate. It could be confiscated," Rizzo said.

We checked to see if the spray would cancel out EZPass and the cameras at Philadelphia International Airport. However, it didn't work in either case. EZPass and airport officials said that is because those cameras take video continuously and don't use a flash.

The manufacturer said he didn't intend for the spray to be used to beat the tolls, because that is illegal. Pennsylvania and Delaware both have laws on the books that make it illegal to deface or obscure a license plate.

The spray is designed to be undetectable to the naked eye, so state police said there is some question as to whether it is illegal. Lawmakers in both states said they are working on legislation aimed specifically at products like these.

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