NMA’s Weekly ATE Racket Report for July 17, 2018

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.  

This week…

Glendale, Arizona City Council will not extend its red-light camera program.  Great News!

TheAntimedia.com website blasted a recent NY Times article on Chinese Surveillance. The title: Chinese Surveillance looks a lot like American Surveillance

The DC Council voted to change how fines from parking, speed cameras and other tickets are collected. The city will stop the practice of suspending someone’s driver’s license after racking up unpaid fines or missed court appearances and would give motorists 60 instead of 30 days to pay before the fine is doubled. The Mayor testified against the measure, worried that it would remove the incentive to pay fines in a timely fashion. Even if the mayor vetoes the bill, the council will have no problem overriding the veto since the council vote was unanimous.

Maryland Police are warning motorists of an automated camera ticket scam via email. Please remember wherever you live, you should only receive a ticket via snail mail and not email.

Rhode Island lawmakers have passed a bill that will shorten school zone speed camera hours to 7:00 AM to 6:00 PM as well as providing more signage. They were forced to change the law due to all the upset motorists in Providence who received many tickets earlier this year, clogging up the traffic court system. Too bad lawmakers did not have the guts to vote out the speed cameras entirely.

Wait and See…

Eighty-Eight percent of all speeding tickets in Red Deer, Alberta come from automated speed cameras according to an auditor. In Red Deer, population about 100,000, automated traffic enforcement continues to be a thorny issue for residents. Both speed and red-light cameras have been used since the year 2000. In 2017, the city also remade four red-light cameras into green light cameras so they can catch speeders in intersections. The city council continues to consider what to do next with the report.

Elsewhere in Canada, the Winnipeg Police Chief has been quoted in the paper that he is open to changing school zone photo enforcement and might stop enforcing during non-school hours. Unfortunately, he would like to be able to change some of the locations of the 50 cameras currently used. At the recent police board meeting, it was revealed that the city is facing a $900,000 shortfall in revenues from photo enforcement in the first quarter of 2018 compared to 2017. Can anyone say “Policing for Profit?”

Aurora, Colorado voters will have a chance this November to vote on whether they want to continue having red-light cameras in their community.  A Good News Wait and See!

What is wrong with Toledo—I guess they just don’t want to give up their Taxation by Citation Racket? TheNewspaper.com called out the city who has refused to accept the recent state Supreme Court verdict. The city is again suing the state with a different strategy…it does not want to lose any state aid (over $2 M) due to the money the city might receive from its automated traffic enforcement program.

Two stories from Texas:

Fort Worth residents’ petition effort to put a November ballot measure to kill red-light cameras in their city failed by the deadline. Organizers are now focused on the 2019 State Legislative session to rid the state of cameras.

In Dallas, Texas, the school bus stop-arm camera scandal that sank the Dallas County Schools last November just never seems to end. This scandal was all about greed and corruption. The latest lawsuit: It is alleged that Dallas County School officials gave away trade secrets involving the video capture of motorists who fail to stop for the buses. The DCS had been working with Bus Patrol but when the scandal broke and then made the switch to American Traffic Solutions…this is apparently when the Bus Patrol’s trade secrets were handed out illegally.

Bad News…

Apparently, technology now exists to ticket tailgaters from automated cameras. Whether any law enforcement agencies are using this new technology is unclear.

Governing.com posted this editorial: A Case for the Surveillance State.

Three California Malls have been feeding License Plate Information back to ICE. Quartz.com ran an article on why private companies have a First Amendment Right to do this. The Electronic Frontier Foundation made this statement.

The Wellington, Florida council voted to purchase 31 ALPRs to be placed throughout the village for a total of $350,000. The money comes from the village’s Law Enforcement Trust Fund which currently has $354,000. The fund’s cash comes from assets seized through the civil asset forfeiture program. Operating costs for the cameras have been estimated at $35,000 per year. Wellington is considered the most populated village in the state at around 61,500 residents.

On Friday, the 13th, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo called on the State Senate Pro Tem Leader to reconvene the Senate in order to pass the school zone speed camera bill for New York City. Otherwise, the city loses all of its speed cameras by the end of July. Let’s hope this does not happen or otherwise NYC will be one giant speed trap!

Memphis, Tennessee neighborhood residents are raising money to install additional SkyCops surveillance cameras in the area. The city council voted recently to spend $1.5 million to place 200 cameras in public places across the city’s seven districts. Four neighborhood associations have raised $2500 each to match a grant to purchase a camera that watches who enters and exits their neighborhood. The city is already testing gunshot recognition technology and next with look into the purchase of ALPRs.

The Washington State Court of Appeals has ruled that even though three locations were marked with non-complaint school zone signs before 2014, motorists who received speed camera tickets will not be reimbursed. Seattle, Washington dodged a $10 million dollar refund all because the plaintiff filed the suit in the wrong venue.

NMA’s City and 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 nma@motorists.org for updating the list.

Jim Walker’s ATE Commentary of the Week

The decision in Glendale, AZ to not extend its red-light camera racket was an important win for us. It leaves only five active programs out of 19 that are authorized. The NMA had an important part in ending this racket.

The slight reduction in the severity of DC’s ticket procedures is welcome, but it still leaves DC as one of the most predatory ticketing cities in the country.

The Montgomery County, MD warning about a ticketing scam is something of a joke, because Montgomery County runs very punitive for-profit ticketing rackets.

The Rhode Island speed cameras created a furor and the small steps to reduce the rackets are welcome. But the hours allowed are still far too long and the for-profit racket will continue until more voters effectively force more changes.

The Province of Alberta uses automated traffic enforcement for profits with deliberately improper and less-safe posted speed limits. The city of Edmonton is about the same size as Ottawa, Ontario which does not have speed cameras. The Edmonton camera rackets are wildly profitable, but the safety stats are worse than Ottawa’s.

Winnipeg, Manitoba has been in the for-profit camera ticket racket business for many years.  Local activists publicize the rackets and challenge them in court, but have not yet been able to win serious changes. This is in part due to local courts that support the rackets, not justice or fairness.

When Aurora, CO voters vote on the cameras, it is very likely the cameras will lose. Ticket cameras have lost 36 of 40 public votes so far, because the general public is increasingly aware they are for-profits, not for safety.

The struggle to get rid of speed and red-light camera rackets in Ohio continues. Some strong “home rule” clauses in the state constitution unfortunately allow some cities to use the rackets for profits. Hopefully the new law to withhold support funds from camera cities in the amount of the camera revenues will stand up to court challenges. Once the profits are gone, it is likely the cameras will then be gone as well.

It is NICE to see camera racket companies waste money fighting each other in court as in the Dallas stop arm camera case.

With luck, ticket camera opponents in the NY state legislature will not reconvene to renew and/or expand the speed camera rackets in New York City. Many Albany legislators do not like the rackets, and hopefully they will prevail this month.

Overall, the ability for surveillance technology to stay ahead of protective legislation for personal privacy continues. Many of these systems COULD be used legitimately to find criminals and stolen property, but the rules on how the data is used and how long it can be kept in databases are far too weak. I have no problem, for example, if license plate readers can identify stolen vehicles, vehicles likely driven by wanted criminals, etc.  But the data for plate numbers that do not get hits should then be quickly deleted by law.  And the use of the data for ANY purpose other than legitimate law enforcement should be in and of itself a criminal offense.

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.

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Leave a Comment

One Response to “NMA’s Weekly ATE Racket Report for July 17, 2018”

  1. Amy says:

    I laughed at the warning about a ticket camera email scam. I wonder what a survey would show if people were asked if they feel that ANY camera ticketing device could be a scam or if they are fair? A judge called speed cameras 3-card monte before. What percentage would agree? The possibility of fake tickets is no joke and that reason alone is why this stuff should not be allowed. Need a federal ban.