Idle Red-Light Cameras in Chicago Means City Budget Holes: MA Court Backs Limited Use of ALPRs

By Shelia Dunn, NMA Communications Director

The Ticket Cam Alert is a weekly feature of the NMA blog. We want to bring the issues of automated traffic enforcement to our supporters. Please feel free to comment below the post.

Idle Red-Light Cameras in Chicago Means City Budget Holes

Just as reported in the last Ticket Cam Alert USA Blog on April 6th, camera companies are hurting due to less traffic, which equals fewer tickets. So are red-light camera infested cities like Chicago. In March, RLC violations were down 45 percent, and that was with the shutdown in effect beginning on March 21st.

The vendor who operates Chicago’s RLCs is Conduent State and Local Solutions, Inc., located in Baltimore, Maryland. Spokesperson Neil Franz said recently, “At this time, we are seeing a nationwide trend of fewer citations overall, driven by the lower amount of traffic on the roads.”

City spokesperson Kristen Cabanban stated that what that means for the city’s budget is unclear. In 2017, the Illinois Policy Institute estimated that Chicago generated $54.4 million in revenue from RLCs.

Many of the surrounding suburbs don’t yet have any data, but various officials say they, too, believe there will be a drop in ticket camera revenue.

Unfortunately, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, the COVID-19 crisis has stopped the momentum to ban RLCs altogether by the state legislature. That impetus to ban RLCs in the state came after yet another corruption scandal erupted in the state. Former State Senator Martin Sandoval, who was also the Transportation Chair, pled guilty to corruption charges in January.

Any sort of automated camera ticket program should never be used as taxation by citation to enhance or sometimes balance the city budget. Ticket cams have led to many corruption scandals and encourage bad relations with the public. Check out all the objections the NMA has against red-light cameras.

Massachusetts Court Backs Limited Use Of ALPRs

New Bedford’s Jason McCarthy was indicted for drug dealing after data was gleaned from automatic license plate readers (ALPRs) placed on the Bourne and Sagamore Bridges. He challenged that his privacy rights were violated. His case made it to the State’s Supreme Judicial Court, which recently ruled on the case.

The judges ruled that the use of the ALPRs at a fixed point on the bridges did not amount to search and seizure, but the widespread use of these devices and the data police gather could.

In a 40-page ruling, the court wrote:

“We conclude that, while the defendant has a constitutionally protected expectation of privacy in the whole of public movements, an interest which potentially could be implicated by the widespread use of ALPRs, that interest is not invaded by the limited extent and use of ALPR data in this case.”

This is the first ALPR case in Massachusetts’ highest court. One of the questions that McCarthy’s attorney argued has to do with whether or not police need a warrant to obtain ALPR data, which they are required to do for cellular site location information. The cameras, in this case, though, only track cars coming on and off the Cape and not any further movements around the state.

According to the court, people who drive on a public roadway do not have the expectation of privacy, even though the use of ALPRs (and other surveillance techniques) and the use of the data could pose some constitutional issues.

As ALPRs continue to spread in use across the country like wildfire, constitutional issues will likely continue to be a question in courts.

Here are the other Top Five Ticket Cam Alert USA stories or editorials of the week:

NMA Resources to fight against Ticket Cams and other Street and In-Car Surveillance

NMA Issue Pages:

Check out the NMA Facebook Page called the Ticket Cam Alert USA.

We are currently building a closed Facebook Group called the Ticket Cam Alert USA Discussion Group for local and state activists to have a space to discuss best practices and ask questions.

Also, here are some NMA blog posts that might be of interest!

If you would like to keep track of the many issues currently involved in automated ticket cameras and street surveillance, take a daily peek at the NMA’s Driving News Feed or subscribe to Driving News Daily, a five times per week email.

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