Redding, California Red Light Cams
Pinal County shelves speed-camera program
Sheriff slams system, pushes for deputies over roadside cameras
The Arizona Republic
Pinal County supervisors Wednesday bid goodbye to photo enforcement.
Their vote to terminate their contract with Redflex, the company that operates the cameras, came at the recommendation of the county's top law-enforcement official, new Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu.
"I'm against photo speed enforcement completely," Babeu said, walking the three-member panel through a detailed PowerPoint presentation. "Here in Pinal, it's failed miserably."
Babeu said speed cameras created dangerous road conditions and offered little financial benefit for the county. He plans to boost traffic enforcement through additional manpower.
Although Pinal County's contract with Redflex wasn't set to expire until Feb. 20, two mobile speed cameras have not been in operation on Pinal roads since Babeu took office Jan. 1.
The speed vans had been roadside in some of Pinal's most populous areas, including Apache Junction, Gold Canyon and unincorporated areas near Queen Creek, since mid-2007.
The county's program is separate from the one operated by the Arizona Department of Public Safety on freeways statewide.
The supervisors two weeks ago had tabled a vote on the Redflex contract because they wanted Babeu to prepare a report on camera enforcement in Pinal, including the financial impact on the county.
He reported Wednesday that the two cameras were activated 11,416 times from September 2007 through last month. Of those activations, 7,290 resulted in citations, but only 3,711 were paid.
Babeu said most of the total $134,199.43 in fines and fees from the paid citations covered administrative and operational costs, leaving the county with a net profit of $12,391.58 that Babeu dismissed as paltry.
Moreover, Babeu said, total motor-vehicle accidents increased by 16 percent in the same time period, and fatal collisions in the Queen Creek area doubled from three to six.
The sheriff said he couldn't be certain that speed cameras were to blame for the crashes, but he believes they were a factor.
Collisions were said to be the reason Redflex was implemented on county roads. Former Sheriff Chris Vasquez initiated the contract to minimize an increasing number of crashes on Hunt Highway, the main thoroughfare connecting north-central Pinal County with Maricopa County.
Babeu thinks that putting more deputies on patrol offers the best way to improve safety, instead of relying on cameras that "can't catch drunk drivers" or stop motorists involved in illegal or dangerous activities.
The sheriff has increased his traffic-enforcement unit from two to four deputies, and a fifth will join the team soon. Babeu said the changes were made at no county cost as part of a departmentwide reorganization.
Babeu estimated that the volume of citations issued annually by the Sheriff's Office would increase sharply as a result of having more deputies on the streets. He said the five-member team alone could generate 10,400 to 20,800 citations a year.
Supervisor Bryan Martyn, whose district was the primary operating area for the speed vans, said he received a number of letters from residents who favored speed-camera enforcement, but he "doesn't presume to tell the sheriff how to do his job."
"He believes he has a better solution to this public-safety concern," Martyn said. "What he's proposing is prudent and seems to make sense. If it goes as sold, you may be praying for photo radar again."
Babeu may answer those prayers in a different way. He wants to bring red-light cameras to the county.
Speed cameras ARE just a blatant tax... says council that's planning
to pull the plug
A Tory council plans to pull £400,000 out of a speed camera project, claiming the devices are a 'blatant tax on the motorist'.
Swindon Borough Council in Wiltshire wants to spend the money on local safety measures, such as vehicle-activated speed signs.
Its proposal is believed to be the first time a council has publicly accused the Government of installing speed cameras to make money rather than prevent accidents.
End of the road? This camera in Swindon is already out of action
If the council axes its annual payment to the Wiltshire and Swindon Safety Camera Partnership, funding for cameras in the county could ultimately dry up. These include controversial mobile traps on the M4.
Yesterday Tory councillor Peter Greenhalgh, head of highways for Swindon, said: 'We treat road safety seriously but we pay about £400,000 a year to the partnership, which goes straight into the Government's pockets.
'We don't get anything back. Instead this money should be spent on local safety measures. These are far more effective than speed cameras which, I feel, are a blatant tax on the motorist.
'They are being used as a cash cow. I take exception to the positioning of some mobile speed cameras. They are designed to raise revenue. Enough is enough.'
He said it would be up to the safety partnership to remove the cameras or continue operating them without the council's money.
In 2007-8, nearly 30,000 people in Wiltshire received speeding tickets, generating £1.76 million, £252,300 in Swindon alone.
The previous year, when a major road scheme was in force, more than 51,000 tickets were issued, generating more than £3million, of which £314,700 was in Swindon.
The safety partnership said speed cameras had led to a 70 per cent drop in the number of deaths and serious injuries on the county's roads. This included a 50 per cent reduction on the M4.
The council is acting after a change allowed the Treasury to keep the millions paid in speed fines instead of the safety partnerships, made up of councils, police and the courts.
Councils now receive road-safety grants from the Government. Ministers hoped this would counter critics who argued that the authorities had a financial incentive to fine motorists.
Mr Greenhalgh said the council could switch the £400,000 to measures including improved road cambers and vehicle-activated signs, which can be installed for only £5,000 each.
Last night, AA president Edmund King welcomed the council's move.
'For too long, there has been an over-reliance on cameras. They are too often seen as the first and last resort,' he said.
Vince Yearly, of the Institute of Advanced Motoring, said: 'Speed cameras have been a substitute for active policing.
'Anything which starts to win back the confidence of drivers should be applauded.'
Kevin Delaney, IAM's head of road safety, added: 'There has been too much emphasis on cameras and not enough on old-fashioned coppering.'
But local Labour MP Anne Snelgrove, who is Parliamentary Private Secretary to Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly, defended the devices.
'I want the council to drop its plans. Speed cameras really do work,' said Mrs Snelgrove, MP for South Swindon. She denied the devices were installed to raise money, saying: 'The best speed camera is the one that doesn't raise a penny, just saves lives.'
The county's partnership operates 15 fixed cameras, two red-light cameras, eight mobile vans and two motorcycles.
Nationally, around two million motorists a year receive a £60 fine from 8,000 speed cameras.
The Department for Transport said: 'Independent research has shown there are 1,745 fewer deaths and serious injuries at camera sites a year.'
Red light camera roulette: L.A. is money loser, Culver City rakes it in A Times review of photo fine-collection systems in Los Angeles County shows sharply mixed results. Some cities make a profit while others run in the red. None say the program is meant to be an ATM.
By Rich Connell, Los Angeles Times Staff
When it comes to collecting traffic ticket revenue from red light cameras, Culver City has been king in Los Angeles County.
The city generated nearly $2 million in photo ticket fines in the last eight months -- hundreds of thousands more than Los Angeles, which had cameras at twice as many intersections, according to new government estimates obtained by The Los Angeles Times.
Fuzzy picture of revenue Who gets the moneyL.A. red light cameras clicking for safety or revenue?
And while Culver City makes money, Los Angeles' photo enforcement program is running in the red and may never recover some $2 million in construction costs and past deficits, records and interviews show. In addition, Los Angeles officials recently reported that they overpaid their red light camera contractor by more than $500,000.
Critics claim that red light cameras -- hailed for reducing deadly collisions at the intersections they monitor -- have essentially become ATMs for local governments, issuing citations around the clock that can cost up to $400.
But a Times review of more than two dozen systems in Los Angeles County found sharply mixed financial results. Some officials also acknowledge that because camera ticket revenue flows through a labyrinth of court and county agencies, it is hard to precisely gauge just how much cash their systems generate.
Some cities -- including Walnut, Santa Clarita and Montebello -- have netted tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars above camera operating costs, officials say. Culver City could clear even more this year, based on budget documents and recent revenue estimates.
Yet Paramount shut down its camera program in 2006 after running a projected $178,000 deficit in two years. "It just really wasn't what we thought it would be," said Assistant City Manager John Moreno. Compton also canceled its program because of concerns over costs.
The reasons for the financial differences can include varying traffic volumes, citation and collection rates, as well as drivers adjusting their behavior, officials say.
Pasadena's 6-year-old camera program has produced safety benefits, including reductions in red light running, but is struggling to cover contractor costs, said Norman Baculinao, the city's senior traffic engineer.
"You have less violations, you have less revenue," he said. "We're at that point now: Our violations are barely making the monthly fees."
Protecting motorists and pedestrians -- not filling public coffers -- is the point of red light cameras, backers argue. In addition, cameras help reduce serious accidents, which saves money and frees up officers for other duties, police say.
Most of the cash generated by red light cameras goes to state and county agencies, along with private contractors who install and maintain the systems, and process violation data for police to review. Cities receive less than half the ticket fines and from that typically pay the vendors $4,000 to $6,000 per intersection approach monitored.
Culver City's program will cost about $1.5 million this fiscal year in fees and personnel, according to the city budget. But for the last eight months alone revenue has exceeded that cost by about $400,000. Additional legal costs are not included in those calculations, said police Lt. Manuel Ariza. Still, he acknowledged: "The city doesn't break even or lose. . . . It makes money at end of year." Tickets and revenue are boosted partly because of the city's location, near the heart of the Westside's busy 405 freeway corridor, he said.
In Los Angeles, contractor Nestor Traffic Systems is paid about $2.5 million a year -- approximately 80% of the red light program's annual costs, records and interviews show. The remaining expense is for LAPD officers who approve photo tickets and appear at traffic court trials.
Based partly on revenue projections supplied by Nestor, city analysts had predicted the program would break even this summer, if only in terms of ongoing costs. But new estimates prepared by the Superior Court, which processes traffic tickets, indicates Los Angeles' red light camera income is falling short of expectations, possibly by tens of thousands of dollars a month, according to the city budget office.
"Based on the court figures, we're not covering costs," said a city financial analyst familiar with the program. He said superiors authorized him to speak with The Times, but not to be quoted by name.
One problem has been that citation rates have been lower than expected. Payments to Nestor are supposed to be reduced if citations rates fall below 80% of potentially prosecutable violations. A recent Police Commission review found citation rates had been running about 60% in 2006 and 2007, and the city overpaid the firm more than $500,000.
The city has recouped the funds by withholding payments, but the company disputes the action and hopes to negotiate a settlement, said Nestor's general counsel, Brian Haskell.
The city also gets less photo enforcement revenue because the vast majority of its camera tickets are for rolling right turns. As issued by the city, those tickets carry a $159 fine and the city gets back about $58. In other jurisdictions, all photo tickets cost $381, not counting traffic school, and those cities receive $150 to $160 on each citation.
Los Angeles officials still hope their red light cameras will cover future operating costs. But Los Angeles Police Department Sgt. Matthew MacWillie said: "This is a traffic safety program. The intent is not to raise money."
Promises of sizable red light camera profits were a part of a vendor's pitch to at least one city, records show.
South Gate officials were told they could reap an estimated $600,000 to $1.5 million in "annual net profit" from photo enforcement, according to a copy of a "confidential" memo by Redflex Traffic Systems obtained from the city.
A Redflex spokeswoman said she could not comment on the South Gate proposal. But cities often seek assurances that camera systems will be self-supporting and not require additional public funding, said Cristina Weekes, Redflex vice president of marketing.
Six years later, South Gate officials are reexamining the safety and financial performance of their camera program, but have not decided whether to renew the contract, said city Finance Director Julia James.
For James and fiscal officials in other cities, red light camera financing has been frustratingly fuzzy.
The county court system combines red light camera funds due cities with fines and bail forfeitures from all other types of cases -- making photo ticket dollars difficult to identify or audit.
"This has been a thorn in my side," said Joyce Rooney, a transportation manager in West Hollywood.
Because of such complaints, court administrators in September began producing estimates of what cities should receive each month from their camera systems, based on monthly snapshots of payments actually made on photo tickets. Though not precise, authorities say the figures are the best measure available of red light camera revenue going to cities.
Still, the Los Angeles budget analyst noted, "it's impossible for us to know exactly how much money we're getting."
Six US cities tamper with traffic cameras for profit
Six U.S. cities have been found guilty of shortening the amber cycles below what is allowed by law on intersections equipped with cameras meant to catch red-light runners. The local governments in question have ignored the safety benefit of increasing the yellow light time and decided to install red-light cameras, shorten the yellow light duration, and collect the profits instead.
The cities in question include Union City, CA, Dallas and Lubbock, TX, Nashville and Chattanooga, TN, Springfield, MO, according to Motorists.org, which collected information from reports from around the country. This isn't the first time traffic cameras have been questioned as to their effectiveness in preventing accidents. In one case, the local government was forced to issue refunds by more than $1 million to motorists who were issued tickets for running red lights.
The report goes on to note these are just instances that have been identified, and there may be more out there, and urges visitors to send in their own findings.
Red-Light Cameras Increase Accidents, USF Study Says
Published: March 12, 2008
TAMPA - Cameras at intersections increase, not decrease, accidents, according to a University of South Florida study published the day after Hillsborough County commissioners voted to allow the cameras at 10 intersections.
The university's yearlong review, published Friday in the campus journal Florida Public Health Review, warns that drivers are at higher risk of having accidents at intersections where cameras are installed.
"People see a yellow light and normally they would drive through it, but at camera intersections they do the quick stop. They slam on the brakes and that means everybody else behind them slams on the brakes," said Barbara Langland-Orban, one of three co-authors of the study and an associate professor in USF's Department of Health Policy and Management.
USF examined five red-light camera studies. It concluded that two were flawed and found that the other three drew the same basic conclusion about cameras at intersections.
"Overall, they have been found to increase crashes and injuries," Langland-Orban said.
She pointed to a seven-year study by the Virginia Transportation Research Council that showed crashes at intersections with the cameras increased 29 percent.
Another study, by the Urban Transit Institute at North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University, looked at almost five years' worth of data. The study concluded that accident rates increased 40 percent at intersections with cameras; injury crashes rose between 40 percent and 50 percent.
The USF review contradicts other studies showing a decline in wrecks, including a report by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety that is frequently cited by camera advocates.
USF's study came out only a day after commissioners voted Thursday to allow the sheriff's office to negotiate with a company to install cameras at 10 intersections.
The study's release was a quirk of timing and had nothing to do with the county commissioners, Langland-Orban said. "We've been working on this for a year."
Commission chairman Ken Hagan said he would have liked to have seen the USF review before Thursday's vote, although he wasn't sure that would have changed the outcome.
"There's a reason hundreds of jurisdictions across the country ... are installing these cameras," he said. "This ordinance is strongly supported by the sheriff's office, and the evidence that we've looked at, essentially from various cities, showed a drastic decline in collisions and fatalities."
Col. Greg Brown, head of the sheriff's patrol division, said studies he has examined showed a decline in serious collisions, even though others contradict those findings. He had not seen the USF study but added that he had not seen any studies that showed an increase in "right-angle collisions," which tend to inflict the most serious injuries.
"We're going ahead with the program," he said.
Sheriff's deputies will monitor the cameras, and Hagan said that the ordinance could be amended or rescinded if the cameras appeared to cause more accidents than they prevented.
Under the ordinance, which commissioners passed unanimously, a company will install and operate the cameras, which photograph cars as they go through red lights.
Tickets will be mailed to the owner of the vehicle, who can appeal the $125 fine in court. The violations are civil infractions and don't add points to a driver's record.
The USF study shows that despite what backers of the cameras say, red-light running is not a growing problem in Florida.
Traffic fatalities from red-light running are not increasing. They averaged 110 per year between 1998 and 2006, accounting for less than 4 percent of Florida's annual traffic fatalities. Injuries from red-light running crashes have steadily decreased during that same period.
Instead of using cameras to catch red-light runners, the study suggests that engineers look at the timing of yellow lights and make sure the signals are visible to motorists.
That will do more to curb accidents than the cameras, which can cause drivers to speed up or slam on the brakes, said Langland-Orban.
"We're focused on healthy people and healthy communities, and we think there needs to be some awareness about the downside of these cameras," she said.
Reporter Rich Shopes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813)
Peace wants state investigation of red-light cameras
Contractor, SDPD defend city efforts
By Michael Gardner
August 24, 2001
SACRAMENTO -- State Sen. Steve Peace will pursue a probe of the city of San Diego's red-light camera program to determine whether it has been driven by profit rather than safety motives.
"The issues in San Diego are symptomatic of concerns statewide," the El Cajon Democrat wrote in calling on the Legislature's Audit Committee to authorize an investigation.
The probe, which is expected to be approved Tuesday, should extend to other cities that have deployed cameras to photograph motorists who run red lights, Peace suggested.
Sgt. Ernie Adams, who is in charge of San Diego's red-light camera division, said an audit would turn up little.
"The state can do whatever it wants. We have nothing to hide," he said.
Peace also may hurry legislation to overhaul state law on the subject. He is mulling a measure to reduce the fines, restrict photographs to license plates and make registered automobile owners responsible for the $271 tickets.
He also is carrying separate legislation that would force cities to comply with a Caltrans formula for determining how long signals must remain yellow at intersections monitored by cameras. The state's standards are now considered only guidelines.
In San Diego, cameras recorded 44,000 violations at 19 intersections in 2000. The city collected $3.7 million from resulting fines over the past fiscal year.
The city and Lockheed Martin IMS, the contractor that operates the system, collect $70 each from every ticket. The rest goes to the county courts and various state agencies.
"I am concerned that the purpose for the red-light cameras has shifted to revenue enhancement," Peace said in his letter.
Before they were turned off in June, the cameras had many San Diegans seeing red. San Diego County Superior Court Judge Ronald Styn said he may toss out hundreds of citations after concluding last week that the city's oversight is so lax that the evidence appears "untrustworthy." A final hearing is set for Aug. 31.
Peace supported a 1995 measure that temporarily authorized red-light cameras. By 1998, however, he had grown convinced the cameras are an invasion of privacy and do not significantly reduce accidents. He opposed a bill that indefinitely extended the program.
In his letter, Peace suggested state auditors focus on several issues, such as revenues, accident rates, whether cameras deter red-light runners and if confidentially laws are being obeyed.
Lockheed Martin and the city followed all state laws, said the company's spokesman, Mark Maddox. The city set the timing of signals and it insisted on sharing fines rather than paying a flat fee, he said.
"The critics have lost the privacy argument. This is what they're reduced to complaining about," Maddox said.
Peace's separate measure to require uniform signal durations easily passed the Assembly Appropriations Committee this week.
"All we want to do is make sure you deserve the ticket you get," said
Carol Migden, D-San Francisco, who chairs the panel.
Copyright 2001 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.
Court Put Brakes on Red Light Cameras
To: National Desk
Contact: Eunice Deeds of the Law Enforcement Alliance of America
The Law Enforcement Alliance of America (LEAA) scored a major victory in its opposition to red light cameras today. In a groundbreaking decision that will be felt across the country, a California judge threw out hundreds of red light camera traffic tickets in one of the largest traffic court cases ever. Determining that the evidence gathered from the red light camera system appears to be 'so untrustworthy and unreliable that it lacks foundation,' the judge ruled that the bounty-style scheme between the City of San Diego and the private company that operates the cameras is illegal. LEAA Executive Director James J. Fotis whose organization has lead opposition to red light cameras for over a year stated, "This is a tremendous victory for public safety and combined with LEAA's legislation that bans red light cameras, today's legal action will help put a stop to the notorious red light camera scam." Fotis added, "The red light cameras are nothing more than profiteering off our nation's traffic laws and have no proven benefit to
public safety." Last month LEAA's model legislation banning these red light cameras was approved by the American Legislative Exchange Council's Criminal Justice Task Force. LEAA opposes red light cameras along with other phony 'public safety' scams. LEAA's opposition to the onerous cameras has been recently bolstered by support from House Majority Leader Richard Armey and the National Motorists Association. Investigations into the red light cameras have raised serious questions about deceptive practices designed to generate excess revenue for the private companies operating the cameras. In many instances these private companies receive as much as half the cost of each ticket their bounty camera generates. The excessive revenue generated by the cameras is only for the bottom line -- profit, not public safety. With more than 65,000 members and supporters, the Law Enforcement Alliance of America is the nation's largest coalition of law enforcement professionals, crime victims, and concerned citizens dedicated to making America safer.
August 20, 2001
Speed Trap Exchange
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