• I’m Against Red Light Cameras

Guy W. Midkiff
February 27, 2008
Red Light Cameras

Recently, when I spoke at the Washington Women Republicans luncheon, the issue of Red Light Cameras came up. My opinion was that I found them intrusive and just one more example of our civil rights being diminished, but if they saved lives then it would be hard to ultimately argue against them. It is not hard to visualize your family being killed by an impaired driving slicing through a red light.

But, none-the-less, there was something that really bothered me, an itch I couldn’t scratch, regarding these lights. First, and foremost, when government has a program that generates cash, then I try to follow the money and see where it ends up and how it is used. Today, I don’t think the City has clearly articulated the transparency of the money trail. The City of Arnold is now being sued over red light cameras and even the City Council members are being named in the suit.

But also, I dare to ask questions, which has riled feathers on more than one occasion. Personally I have become just a little annoyed by the City using the “Safety Card” every time they want to ram through another program or ordinance. (Think $36K light poles, occupancy inspections, traffic quotas, and the pending Camp Street Bridge (or what the locals call the “Walmart Bridge”)

Do I care about safety and the sanctity of life? Heck yes I do care about life. I found it very interesting, though, that one does not have to go far when it comes to finding research on red light cameras. Recently the mayor of St. Peters, Missouri, Shawn Brown, was found guilty of soliciting a bribe for passing a city ordinance regarding red light cameras. He is now facing 20 years in the pokey and a $250,000 fine. The corrupting influence of money should never be underestimated.

Jay Nixon has come out against RLC’s (red light cameras), legislation is pending against them, Alaska actually terminated their RLC’s, not to mention considerable scientific statistical research that flies in the face of the claim that RLC’s improve safety (more on that later). I think one of my biggest complaints against the RLC is that the presumption of innocence is tossed out the window. Presumption of innocence is the corner stone of our legal system and we should think about the unintended consequences before we go monkeying around with these Constitutional Rights. When you came your surprise-o-gram from the City, you will be presumed guilty. It will be up to you to prove your innocence – kinda turns our entire legal system on its rear end.

And now for the eureka piece, the pièces de résistance, the trump of all trump cards: SAFETY. Many communities, which have installed RLC’s, are producing anecdotal data to support their safety argument. These findings are not scientific and are of practically no value. For valid results, large sample sets must be used over a long period of time. It is impossible to install RLC’s, point to a specific trend and say, “Ah ha, RLC’s saves lives.” Please read my blog (click here) on the RLC Myth for more on the scientific study that was conducted by the North Carolina A&T State University which irrefutably dispels the safety claim for RLC’s.

I feel that RLC’s are not good for the community. I think history proves that corruption, conspiracy and controversy mark RLC’s. My opinion is that they are just another extension of the long arm of big brother and is an invasion of your civil rights. And did I mention the money? Some very conservative estimates are that the City of Washington will rake in somewhere around $350,000 per year, PER INTERSECTION! Sure, it’s all about your safety.


Camera Maker Admits Ticketing is Addictive
Cities get addicted to red light camera and speed camera revenue according to the CEO of Affiliated Computer Services.

Lynn BlodgettA top vendor of speed camera and red light camera services told investors that his company represents a great investment opportunity because the cities who use his product cannot resist the steady revenue stream it creates. Lynn Blodgett, CEO of Affiliated Computer Services (ACS), spoke earlier this month to the Technology, Telecom and Internet Conference hosted by the Thomas Weisel Partners investment bank. Blodgett made the pitch that no matter how bad the economy might get, there never be a lack of demand for outsourcing large-scale government programs to ACS.

“As an overall statement, people are typically in tougher economic times,” Blodgett said. “Our clients are typically more attuned to outsourcing and doing more because they need to save money. And so in that way we tend to — we say we’re a good company in good time and we’re a great company in bad times and it’s because the services we provide are mission-critical.”

The most critical programs for state and municipal governments in tough economic times, Blodgett argued, were those that transfer money from taxpayers to the government. He suggested that once a city tries red light cameras, it will never go back.

“The government services that we provide are either funded as part of entitlement programs, or they help generate revenue,” Blodgett said. “I mean, a red light camera system for a city generates a lot of revenue and so they’re not going to cut back on those type of areas in an economically challenged time.”


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