Compiled by NMA Foundation Director James C. Walker and NMA Communications Director Shelia Dunn
The ATE Racket Report is a weekly feature of the NMA blog. We want to bring the issues of automated traffic enforcement to our supporters in a more coherent up-to-date fashion.
From the Past Two Weeks…
Govtech.com posted a recent article that confirms what we already know—automated camera enforcement is on the decline. Apt title: Taking a U-Turn on Red-Light and Speed Cameras
The Public Standard posited this question in an editorial: Have the Federal Government’s Spy worthy Automated License Plate Readers (ALPRs) gone too far?
TheNewspaper.com recently reported that a UK radio host is in trouble for calling red-light camera operators “maggots.” UK broadcast regulator Ofcom said this about the May incident:
“In Ofcom’s view, the language used in this segment was critical and derogatory and had the potential to cause offense,” the agency ruled. “In our view the repeated derogatory language and the suggestion that the operators’ sole purpose was to generate revenue, rather than ensure road safety, amounted to considerable criticism and hostility. In addition, the language and criticism were reiterated and endorsed by the presenter without any challenge. For these reasons, Ofcom considered that this item was likely to have exceeded listeners’ expectations.”
A phone app has been developed that can determine if you have been in an accident. Noonlight uses an algorithm that taps into a smartphone’s sensors to measure and detect minuscule changes in the user’s location, motion and force. If the app thinks you have been in an accident, it will call 911 and give your location.
Also, a research team at Purdue University has created a camera-smartphone combo that will help curb distracted walking. Called Phade, it uses surveillance or other cameras in public places to send an alert directly to your smartphone.
Wait and See…
In September, four motorists have filed a lawsuit against the city of Chicago because they believe that citations issued under the red-light camera program do not comply with state law or city code. The plaintiffs are asking the court to prevent the city from issuing any further citations and recover all fines and penalties of more than two million violation notices from the past five years. Earlier this year, the city settled by paying back fines of $38 million in another class action. This is indeed a wait and see…
This summer, a federal judge told the Department of Justice that placing a GPS tracking device on a suspect’s car is unconstitutional. However, in a different case, a top Homeland Security Investigations official said in federal court that it remains policy to allow officers to install GPS tracking devices on cars entering the US without a warrant or suspicion for up to 48 hours. They claim it is valid under the border doctrine exception to the Fourth Amendment. Interesting read on ArsTechnica.com and this issue is far from over.
In New York, a Nassau County legislator is asking for better signage before red-light camera intersections.
Indeed, Bad News…
Fremont, CA police have been accumulating expensive surveillance equipment mostly behind the scenes. Privacy advocates say transparency needs to lead the way here. Indeed, it does!
Chino Hills, CA police have placed new Automated License Plate Readers at 13 intersections and plan to use them to capture suspects, recover stolen property, and help find missing persons and runaways.
To kick off the city’s newly minted red-light camera program, the city of Colorado Springs, Colorado has kicked off an awareness campaign called Focus on Safety. City officials believe the campaign along with the RLCs will promote better traffic safety. (And a whole lot more cash for the city coffers.)
Denver Police announced they will be placing their first permanent ALPR device on Federal Blvd. Police have been utilizing these devices on squad cars and on moveable trailers.
A report came out that more Tampa Bay, Florida area police departments are putting license plates under surveillance with both permanent placement and trailers that move ALPRs around the area. Since 2016, Florida departments are only allowed to keep the footage they collect for no more than 3 years.
Nearly 3,000 red-light camera citations have already been issued in Milton, Florida this year. The town has five RLCs at three different intersections. Police Chief Tony Tindell says the city has not yet made a profit off the citations—only enough to pay for the cameras and the service.
The city of Savannah, Georgia may soon expand their red-light cameras to more intersections. The city first placed 15 years ago. Citations are at $70 with no points. In 2017, the city collected $727,880 in revenue. In August, the city council renewed for two years their contract with Redflex Traffic Systems which collects $166,800 annually to run the system. They are now in discussion to expand the program.
Despite a history of corruption, a number of Chicago suburbs are still contracting with disgraced red-light camera vendor Redflex Traffic Solutions. At least five suburban cities are still contracted with the scandal ridden company while other communities have quietly contracted with other vendors. Would be great if they all get off the gravy train of automated camera enforcement!
Quartz.com reported on a surveillance technique that many drivers may not be aware of: That Road Sign Telling You How Fast You’re Driving May be part of a Government Surveillance Network.
Recently in Ohio, police, with a warrant, used a suspect’s face to open his IPhone. This was not a motorist though…he was a child pornography suspect.
In 2019, Arlington County, Virginia will do away with their county decals which motorists have been required to display since 1967 on their front windshield to indicate that they have paid the car’s county motor vehicle license fee. Now the county will use ALPRs to track down those who don’t pay.
Four new red-light cameras have been turned on in Moses Lake, Washington.
Bellevue, Washington has placed stop arm cameras on 20 percent of their school buses (with more to soon come). If a driver is caught passing with the paddle out, they face a $419 ticket.
NMA’s City/State Lists of RLCs and Speed Cameras
The NMA has compiled a list of which states and cities are using red-light and speed cameras. This may not be a complete list and please send any additions or subtractions to the email@example.com for updating the list.
Jim Walker’s ATE Commentary of the Week
Reports like the one from Govtech help give legitimacy to our overall claim that automated enforcement is about profits and should end.
Nassau County’s red-light cameras are a for-profit racket and officials have resisted every effort to make them more transparent and less predatory.
Automated license plate readers are here. Our efforts need to be in the area of limiting the time the data can be retained for plates that do not “get a hit”.
We know the camera program in Colorado Springs is a racket. Only one of the four camera intersections is on the top 25 of the ones with the most crashes.
Several cities continue to contract with Redflex after their five convictions in federal Reflex-related cases for fraud, bribery or extortion. Local investigative reporters need to dig hard for WHY they stay with Redflex. Most cities don’t want to deal with vendors that have an extensive history of felonious behavior.
Cities that use stop arm cameras do not care that about two thirds of the child fatalities in School Transportation Related Crashes are caused by the buses, not by passing cars. The rea$on$ are obviou$ and they don’t involve $afety.
James C. Walker is a life member of the National Motorists Association. He is also a board member and executive director of the National Motorists Association Foundation.