Glendale Man Arrested on Suspicion of Hammering Speed Camera With Pickax: Hero or Villain?

Late Wednesday night, a motorcycle officer with the Department of Public Safety heard a lot of banging noises while he was staked out under an overpass. When he went to check it out, he saw Travis Munroe Townsend, 26, whamming a box containing a photo enforcement camera, states a DPS news release (reprinted below).

"They're pretty tough," Bailey says of the camera housings. DPS has put dozens of stationary and mobile speed cameras on Arizona freeways and highways since Governor Janet Napolitano authorized their use last year.

As the motor cop tried to make the arrest, Townsend "initially turned around and raised the axe over his head," possibly to threaten the officer, Bailey says. However, Townsend apparently gave it a second thought and laid the axe on the ground. He was then taken into custody without further ado and booked into the county jail.

We can't help but wonder if Townsend had heard of the recent Czech Republic incident involving a man attacking a speed camera with a pickax, which we blogged about here.

Needless to say, Townsend's in a peck of trouble. But people who have received photo enforcement tickets will no doubt find a soft spot in their hearts for the dude. No question about it -- the massive invasion of photo enforcement cameras by DPS is pissing people off.

Read the DPS news release below for full info on the charges and potential penalties, as well as a quote by DPS Director Roger Vanderpool:


Man arrested for vandalizing photo enforcement camera site with pick axe

An Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) Officer arrested Travis Munroe Townsend, 26, of Glendale, Ariz. for vandalizing a stationary photo enforcement camera site on the Loop 101 at 59th avenue in Glendale with a large pick axe. Mr. Townsend was booked into the 4th Avenue Jail in Phoenix on the charges of Criminal Damage (ARS 13-1602.A2) a class 4 felony, Interference with a Traffic Control Device (ARS 28-649A) a class 1 misdemeanor and Criminal Trespass (ARS 13-1502) a class 3 misdemeanor.

Mr. Townsend could face up to three years imprisonment and a fine of up to $150,000 for the criminal damage charge. For the interference with a traffic control device charge Townsend could spend up to six months in jail and pay a fine of up to $2,500. For Criminal Trespassing Townsend could face up to 30 days in jail and fine of up to $500. Townsend may also be charged for retribution for the damaged protective case, and labor involved with the repair and replacement of the case.

The events leading to the arrest began o n Wednesday, December 3, 2008 at about 11:42 p.m. when a DPS motorcycle officer who was parked underneath the westbound side of the 59th Avenue overpass on the Loop 101 heard some very loud banging noises. The officer then observed a man wielding a large pick axe and swinging it very hard at the stationary photo enforcement camera site. The suspect struck the metallic and glass housing that protects the photo enforcement camera equipment at the site with his large pick axe at least six times.

The small puncture marks the suspect inflicted on the camera's protective housing had no impact on the integrity of the camera system inside. A new protective housing was installed at this camera site following the incident, however, resulting in several thousand dollars in damages tied to the suspect's actions. The site was back in full operation today at about 11 a.m.

"Any type of tampering with a photo enforcement site can result in extremely serious, life changing charges being filed against a person," said DPS Director Roger Vanderpool. "From criminal damage charges to charges related to interfering with judicial proceedings that can carry lengthy jail terms and hefty fines, the ramifications a person could face for tampering with a photo enforcement site are extremely serious. DPS Officers will continue to be vigilant at all hours of the day and night and stand ready to respond quickly to reports or first hand observances of persons tampering with or vandalizing photo enforcement sites in any manner." -- Ray Stern



KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.
Contact: Ray Stern