L.A. is debating removing of all red light cameras.
If the Police Commision gets its way, the nation’s second largest city will be at the leading edge of an anti-camera movement that appears to have been gaining traction across the country in recent weeks.
Los Angeles’ City Council committee is considering whether to continue the city’s camera contract over the objections of the commission, which voted unanimously to remove the camera system, which shoots video of cars running red lights at 32 of the city’s thousands of intersections. The private Arizona company that installed the cameras and runs the program mails off $446 tickets to their registered owners. The company’s contract will expire at the end of July if the council can’t reach a final agreement to renew it.
Opponents of the cameras often argue that they are really just revenue engines for struggling cities and towns, silently dinging drivers for mostly minor infractions. The nearly 400 cameras in Chicago, for example, generated more than $64 million in 2009.
Los Angeles gets only a third of the revenue generated by camera citations, many of which go unpaid anyway because judges refuse to enforce them, the city controller’s office reported last year. Operating the cameras has cost $1 million to $1.5 million a year more than they’ve generated in fines, even as “the program has not been able to document conclusively an increase in public safety.”
Other opponents of the cameras believe it’s unfair to replace a human officer’s judgment and discretion with the cold, unforgiving algorithms of a machine.
Paul Kubosh, a lawyer who has led a similar anti-camera fight in Houston, called the camera systems “a scam on the public,” because they “are writing tickets that police officers don’t write.”
Other common complaints are that the automated citations violate due process and equal protection rights — often, there’s no officer to confront in court — and invade motorists’ privacy.
The debate revolvses around the bigger question: Do red light cameras save lives?
This is difficult to answer because hard research on the effect of red light cameras in the United States is incomplete and often contradictory.
The Insurance Institute’s inventive approach was about as sound and rigorous a way as could be conceived to construct a comparison that necessarily involved incomplete data. How incomplete? In a city like Chicago, the institute had to include data from all 2,900 signalized intersections — fewer than 200 of which, or less than 7 percent — actually had cameras throughout the study period.
Read More@ MSNBC.com