NMA’s Weekly ATE Racket Report for September 12, 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…

Texas Governor Greg Abbott calls for the end of Red-Light Cameras in his State—What a headline! Will lawmakers comply…this is a wait and see but the headline was too juicy to put in that category!  If Texas were to do away with RLCs, local governments would lose about $16 million in revenue a year.  This comes on the heels of the Case Western University Report that was conducted in the Houston area.

Suffolk County, NY anti-red-light camera activist Stephen Ruth has told county lawmakers that he is ending his battle.  In 2016, he was convicted for vandalizing 17 cameras and has unsuccessfully run for county and state offices in his battle against the cams! Hopefully, someone else will take up this good fight!

Wait and See…

George Yang, running for city council in Menlo Park, CA vows to get rid of Red-Light cameras. He said in a recent interview:

“I think the red-light camera creates unnecessary opposition between citizens and the city. There are better ways to deter without having citizens angry at the city or feel that the city is making a buck off of them.” He went onto add that this is a moral principle for him, “The camera is a Big Brother solution that I cannot support.” We need more folks to run for city government like Mr. Yang.

Iowa Supreme Court split on speed cameras for the first time. In a trio of recent decisions, two out of three promoted the status quo but the third revived a class action against automated traffic enforcement. The court questioned two things regarding Cedar Rapids’ program:

1) Why does the ordinance penalize vehicle owners instead of vehicle drivers? If this were truly about safety, this would not be the case.
2) Why is the placement of the speed cameras after the S-curve rather than before it?

One of the judges noted however:

“That said, the mere incantation of the abracadabra of public safety does not end the analysis. It is possible to imagine a scenario in which the challenger develops a factual record that demonstrates an automated traffic enforcement system as implemented is so attenuated and remote from public safety concerns and is simply designed to raise revenues for the city that it violates rationale basis analysis.”

New Jersey Lawmakers reintroduce an anti-photo ticketing bill.  Will be interesting to see if this passes the full legislature. This news was even reported in Philadelphia.

The Kent, Ohio city council is now considering installing red-light cameras at six intersections. The city approved a study in July that was paid for by American Traffic Solutions (a camera company of course) which already runs the city’s school zone traffic cams. A decision will likely be made in October.

Local Philadelphia leaders want to place speed cameras on Roosevelt Blvd. The report we saw was sketchy on details which is just how Pennsylvania elected officials like it.

Bad News…

Mobilitylab.org tried to answer this question this week: Can cities use red-light cameras to enforce bus and bike lanes? Cities need to pass legislation to authorize this use. San Francisco and NYC already have and Washington, DC is considering the option.

TheIntercept.com posted an expose this past week on how IBM used NYC PD Surveillance Footage to Develop Technology that lets police search for people by skin color.

The Police Department in Duluth, Georgia plans to install automatic license plate readers (ALPRs) across the city to deter crime. Yep, that’s what they all say!

The police department in Mesquite, Nevada has received new tech that will better allow officers to read ALPRs.

Jersey Village, Texas is considering reinstalling 11 Red-light Cameras. In August, the city council approved an engineering study for seven intersections along Hwy. 290 frontage road. In 2013, the Texas DOT required that the city remove the lights from frontage road to accommodate the Hwy. 290 expansion. That expansion is now almost complete and officials want them back.

Seattle Region’s toughest Red-Light Camera Busted 24,000 drivers in 2017. The camera is in Des Moines in southern King County.


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 nma@motorists.org for updating the list.


Jim Walker’s ATE Commentary of the Week

Having the Texas Governor actively campaigning to get rid of the red-light camera rackets may help end them statewide. Bills have stalled before, maybe 2019 will be the magic year to add Texas to the list of states that ban red-light camera rackets.

There are now 80 California communities that have ended or banned red-light cameras, leaving only 29 active programs. If Menlo Park drops them, it will be 81 and 28.

It has been a real problem to try to end the speed camera rackets in Iowa, with the courts usually supporting the cities being able to keep the rackets. This Supreme Court decision to revive a class action suit gives opponents another swing at bat.

South Dakota banned its authorities from helping other states collect on camera tickets and now the NJ legislature has such a bill. NJ ended their red-light camera racket a few years ago, so this bill might have a good chance to pass.

The NMA recently wrote to officials in Kent, Ohio and Jersey Village, Texas with 10 Reasons not to use red-light cameras. Time will tell if the letters helped.

I don’t have any problem with Automatic License Plate Readers to find criminals, stolen vehicles, people with warrants, etc. I would like stolen cars to be found and criminals to get caught. My problem is not having rules to automatically delete the plate numbers that don’t “get a hit” within a short period of time – within a maximum time of a week.

I exchanged emails with Seattle officials some time ago and they were perfectly happy to time the lights at red-light camera intersections for speeds that do not reflect reality.  That larcenous attitude undoubtedly also pleases their for-profit camera vendor.

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.

NMA Member ATE Advocacy Letter of the Week

NMA Member Tom Beckett recently wrote a letter to the editor of the Arkansas Democrat & Gazette to give opposition to a recent letter proposing red-light cameras in Little Rock.  Tom is a chronic letter writer and because of that he brings authority to the subject and has no problems voicing his opinion.  Great motorists’ rights advocate role model!

Kay Hicks, in her Aug 25 letter, gets it wrong about red-light cameras. Traffic enforcement should always be about safety, and never about raising revenue. Many such programs do not identify the driver, but instead capture the license plate of the vehicle, and send a violation notice to the registered owner. That individual may not have been driving at the time, but will now be liable for a fine for a violation he did not commit. Thus, there are already due process and Constitutional issues. Additionally, the forums to contest such tickets are often run by the agencies that stand to benefit from the collected fines, raising the issue of impartiality.

In the cities that have them, red-light cameras are often run by contractors, who get a cut of the take. There is an incentive to raise as much revenue as possible to enhance their profitability, which is a conflict of interest.

As if that were not enough, in many cases, the yellow intervals are shortened, making the lights turn red sooner than they would if proper traffic engineering guidelines were followed, thus stacking the deck against motorists.

Everyone wants traffic safety. But if that is the goal, then drivers passing red lights need to be ticketed by an officer who has witnessed the violation, and the driver can invoke his Sixth Amendment right to confront his accuser if he so chooses. Tying enforcement to raising revenue only invites corruption, and will have a minimal effect on traffic safety.

Thank you, Tom for your steadfastness in advocating for motorists in your neck of the woods!

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