NMA’s Weekly ATE Racket Report for June 26, 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 past week…

Good News for Privacy Advocates and the rest of us—the US Supreme Court ruled last week that police need a warrant to obtain cell phone records for tracking suspects.

An internal audit by the St. Paul, Minnesota Police Department released this week stated that officers were mostly using new body cameras and complying with department policy. Any officer wearing a uniform is required to camera up. From January-March, 87,544 videos were recorded at 19,781 hours.

New York’s Westchester County did not prevail in their bid to bring 100 red-light cameras to the county. State Lawmakers did not give the green light before the session ended early Thursday. Wallkill’s red-light camera request to the legislature also did not pass.

New York Lawmakers also did not renew New York City’s school zone speed camera program. It will likely disappear at the end of July. The 140 cameras were placed 4 years ago as part of the city’s Vision Zero Plan and had to be reauthorized this legislative session in order to remain. Proponents were actually trying to expand the program to 290 cameras (originally 700) which would have made the entire city one giant automated speed trap.

Ohio Supreme Court backed legislative curbs on speed cameras. Traffic cameras could cost Ohio cities millions after State Supreme Court ruling–still a wait and see since attorneys for the city of Toledo will file yet another lawsuit to separately challenge the spending provisions’ constitutionality. In March, the House of Representatives passed HB 410, which would withhold an amount equal to the automated traffic enforcement fines actually collected from the cities allocation of the local Government Fund. That bill is pending in the Senate. The court ruled that the lower court lacked authority to enjoin enforcement of the spending provisions relating to traffic cameras enacted in [House Bill] 64 because no action has been filed challenging their constitutionality and no court has found them unconstitutional.

Wait and See

The Electronic Freedom Foundation is pushing against the Border Security and Immigration Reform Act (H.R. 6136), introduced before Congress last week. If the bill becomes law, it would offer immigrants a new path to citizenship in exchange for increased high tech government surveillance of citizens and immigrants alike. Also, Homeland Security would have broad authority to spy on millions of individuals who live and work up to 100 miles from the border regardless of citizenship status with 24 hours, five days per week drone surveillance at the southern border. This bill also includes provisions for increased DNA and biometric screening, ALPR database upgrades and expanded social media snooping.

More than 100 Amazon employees wrote a letter to the CEO asking him to no longer sell their product Rekognition (facial recognition software) to police. No response yet from Jeff Bezos.

The city council of Encinitas, California has postponed discussion on renewing the city’s red-light camera program at two major intersections. The RLC issue will now go first to the city’s Traffic and Public Safety Commission for a public hearing possibly on July 23.

The entire state of New Jersey might soon be utilizing automated parking meter cameras. Palisades Park has been involved in a small project of 20 meters and over a five-month period, the number of tickets increased 190 percent. If replicated across the state, parking tickets have the potential to increase from 2.5 million up to 7 million. Early in the legislative process, Senate Bill 2579 would explicitly authorize cities to use smart parking meters.

Providence, Rhode Island has received $1.8 million in fines in the first five months of its speed camera program for a total of 36,883 speeding tickets between January 16 and June 12. This is a wait and see though since it is unclear how much revenue will be returned to drivers once a settlement to a lawsuit challenging the cameras is finalized. In May, the city agreed to refund $20 to every driver who paid a $95 fine between January 16 and April 15 but the settlement is still making its way through the court. State lawmakers are working to lower the fine to $50. Okay—it really should be bad news because the cameras will probably still be there after the court case and the legislative session which ends this month.

Bad News

Orlando, Florida airport will be the first in the US to use facial recognition software on all international travelers.

The Lake Worth, Florida city council recently approved $332,000 funding to buy 20 more surveillance cameras and 22 automated license plate readers.

No one is surprised that Des Moines, Iowa is turning their I-235 speed cameras back on. In late April, the State Supreme Court ruled that the Iowa DOT did not have the authority to regulate the cameras on the Interstate which gave the go ahead to the three cities (Cedar Rapids and Muscatine) to resume their speed cameras if so desired. The Des Moines cams go active June 25 with fines beginning at $65. Cedar Rapids officials are still contemplating what to do next with their speed cameras and last week, just one of Muscatine’s five cameras went live.

The Reading Pennsylvania Parking Authority has bought a new jeep and an automated license plate reader system so workers can catch parking ticket scofflaws by placing a barnacle on the windshield or for scofflaws with more than five tickets, booting their cars. Apparently the city is owed more $2.2 million in parking fees and the city aims to collect it by forcing residents to pay their tickets plus an additional $125 for a Barnacle removal and $200 boot removal.

Mount Carmel, Tennessee red-light cameras went live on June 15th. After the 30 day waiting periods, tickets will be issued at $50 per.

Spokane, Washington school zone cameras snared 21,500 motorists since 2016 at only two elementary schools. Fines generated topped $4 million and the city plans to expand the program to two more schools. The city council plans to use the money for more traffic officers to patrol near the schools and to road diet the area to slow down drivers.

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

Westchester County and city of Wallkill, NY’s bid for red-light cameras would have expanded the state’s camera rackets, but many Albany legislators do not like the cameras. This also figured into the failure so far to expand the school zone cameras in NYC – or so far to even renew them, so they may all disappear this year!!!

The Ohio State Supreme Court win over Toledo’s ticket camera rackets is huge.  If the ruling stands, camera cities would lose state support funding in the amount of the camera racket revenues, making the cameras into a high cost item in the budget, not a profit center. Cities would have to pay for the cameras and their own internal costs from general funds with no offsetting camera revenues. Toledo will appeal again, hopefully failing again.

Encinitas postponing the camera renewal issue pending a public hearing may kill the program if enough people show up to say NO to the cameras. Red-light camera programs are dying in California and Encinitas may be next.

The Iowa state legislature and the Iowa DOT still refuse to enact legislation or rules to kill the cameras by requiring correct traffic safety engineering. The NMA has repeatedly contacted the DOT, but without success. The Iowa DOT, like some others, thinks posting highway speed limits to define 50% to 90% of the drivers as violators is OK. And they refuse so far to require correct light timing. These are NOT OK, and we will keep working on these issues with the DOT.

We tried to stop the red-light camera program in Carmel, TN but failed. It will take public outcries to cause a re-think.

Nassau County, NY activists continue to apply pressure on the county legislators to end the program which their own reports show have increased crashes and ticketing rates – proof the programs are NOT about safety.

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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