The Red Light Camera Culture of Corruption

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One of our legislative campaigns for 2014 is against red light cameras. No, we’re not scofflaws that think it is OK to blast through a red light. Quite the opposite, we believe in proper laws that follow and adhere to our founding as a nation. We believe in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, not existence, government regulation, and the pursuit of safety.

Something you’ll find when you look into this scheme is a lot of money. Performing a search for red light camera corruption this morning returned several recent stories, here are just two-

3 more Redflex execs out as fallout continues for city’s red light camera firm

In the City of Chicago, camera vendor Redflex was caught bribing a former city official. The scandal resulted in the resignations of the president, chief financial officer and attorney for Redflex. From the story:

The resignations came as Redflex said it was winding down a company-funded probe into allegations of an improper relationship between the company and the former city transportation manager who oversaw its contract until 2011, a relationship first disclosed by the Tribune in October. A longtime friend of that city manager was hired by Redflex for a high-paid consulting deal.

New Orleans Cops Caught Filling Their Pockets With Red Light Camera Cash

The allegation here is that police officers formed a company to review ticket photos and were then paid by the city. From the story:

The Inspector General noted it’s illegal for law enforcement members to form an LLC in order to “manage a detail.” Not only that, but the officers’ actions violated ethics policies. The low-level corruption began when American Traffic Solutions subcontracted its photo reviews to Affiliated Computer Services, which oddly enough, already handled parking tickets for the city. The then-chief of police, Warren Riley, declared he couldn’t spare on-duty officers to review the photo citations. A workaround presented itself when ATS subcontracted review duty to ACS, which then hired off-duty officers to review the collected photos. Robert Mendoza, head of the public works department, greased the wheels.

This corruption is not limited to other places. Here in Florida:

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Ron Reagan,  the lawmaker that sponsored the red light camera law in 2010 had his term limit expire. Where did he go for work afterward? An American Traffic Solutions (ATS) front group, the National Coalition for Safer Roads. He testified for them recently in Michigan in an attempt to pass a red light camera law there.

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Peter Paulding was the Chief of Police in Gulf Breeze, FL, the first city in Florida to use a red light camera back in March 2006. He advocated for the camera, and after the city had been using it for a while in 2011 he used his official position to suggest a “back office” company be set up to handle the ticket volume. A few months later, he set up a private company to perform this function. After retirement in early 2012, he won a contract with the city for $2,000/month to process the tickets. Perhaps he was the model the New Orleans officers used.

Did I mention there had only been one red light violation crash at that intersection since March 2005, and it was caused by a DUI? Gulf Breeze has since added two more cameras.

We’ve detailed $525,257 in ATS contributions to Florida politicians and political groups (click for spreadsheet) from 2008-2013, including $10,000 to a group ironically called “Protect Our Liberty”, operated by sitting Senator Andy Gardiner.

While the monetary link is not as dramatic, WTSP investigative reporter Noah Pransky found that the Florida DOT had changed the language for minimum yellow light timing in 2011, a year after the red light camera law. This allowed cities to use shorter yellow light times, resulting in more tickets. I won’t bore you with the math, but this change placed some intersections into the range of needing a panic stop to comply if you tried to stop when the yellow light came on. Following the money? Consider the state receives millions in revenue from the cameras each year due to the way the fine breaks down.

This is an uphill battle, but most certainly a worthy one. You may think the issue won’t affect you, but even if you never drive in a city that uses the cameras, again due to the way the law is written, a simple mistake by either the camera company or the police will result in you getting the ticket. You’ll then need to spend time and money to prove your innocence. The tickets are $158. A far better investment is just a fraction of that money monthly to us so we can fund our lobbying effort against the camera law. As more and more people discover the culture of corruption here, it will be easier to fight in the legislature, but we need your help right now. The 2014 legislative session started the day after the 2013 one ended.

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