The contract sets as the baseline that the company must issue 25 tickets for every 100 alleged violations recorded by the machine. These recordings include any number of situations where either no real offense took place, or the driver cannot be positively identified — as required under California law. Nonetheless, if the total number of citations mailed falls under 25 per 100, the corrective steps must be taken to boost the number of citations mailed. In effect, this provides a direct incentive to the contractor to issue tickets regardless of whether the machine properly captured a true violation. There is no penalty under state law for a contractor to guess, for example, a license plate number when the image is unreadable.
The contract documents were obtained by the editor of the highwayrobbery.net website who suggested that these provisions directly conflict with a state law prohibiting “any policy requiring any peace officer or parking enforcement employees to meet an arrest quota” (California Vehicle Code Section 41602). The law defines arrest quotas as any requirement for a police officer or meter maid to issue any proportion or number of “notices of violation.”
Predictably, other cities have already been caught guessing license plates.
Of course, the authorities are always on the lookout for any way to prevent unjust tickets from being issued:
In a 2006 memo to a neighboring department, Roseville Police expressed frustration with individuals, including the editor of highwayrobbery.net, for disclosing contract provisions that the city prefers to keep secret.
“The one annoyance are the people who have made it their mission to fight photo red light citations by making public records requests,” Roseville Police wrote. “My recommendation is that you save every related document somewhere and when you get your first public records request you send them an avalanche of paper and charge them accordingly.”
With that attitude it’s a good thing that ticket cameras never make mistakes.