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How Red Light Cameras Undermine a Great GPD Philosophy

Jeff Ward calls red-light cameras "a despicable abomination that needs to go the way of the Humvee."

“This technology creates a safe environment,” Mayor Kevin Burns told the Kane County Chronicle. I get the feeling we’re going to have to yet one more time.

Yes! The number of accidents at and appear to have decreased from 2010 to 2011, but we still haven’t hit this year’s prime driving season, so that jury’s still out. Even if this positive trend continues, a two-year comparison is not what I’d call “statistically significant.”

Beyond that, can we automatically attribute any car crash abatement to the installed at those intersections?  I think paying 87 bucks to fill up your Ford Explorer can have a seriously sobering effect on the most aggressive of drivers. I don’t know about you, but Randall doesn’t seem to be quite the same speedway these days.

Before we continue, let me state for the record that, not only have I failed to receive a red-light camera citation, but I haven’t been subjected to a suburban moving violation in more than two decades. That clarification is critical because before I can even complain about those contemptible cameras, the police spokesperson immediately asks me, “Where did you get your ticket?”

Let me also stipulate that I believe the city of Geneva installed them for the right reasons—education and safety—and not for revenue generation.

Finally, for the sake of this specific argument, let’s say that Geneva’s cameras have indeed created a safer Randal Road environment. I still say they’re a despicable abomination that needs to go the way of the Humvee.

The irony is (you know I love that word), nothing proves my point more than the core traffic-stop philosophy of the Geneva Police Department themselves!

As we, a motorist pulled over by the GPD stands an 86 percent chance of walking away with a warning. If you manage to get a traffic ticket in Geneva, you really screwed up!

Some cynical citizens say the ulterior motive behind this leniency is the fact that Geneva is a travel destination and the police have “orders” not to aggravate visitors. I hate to tell you, but they kinda get the idea of where you live when you hand them your driver's license. So much for that theory.

Inexorably, when it comes to traffic stops, the GPD is clearly more concerned with education than with remuneration. And that’s exactly how it should be. Because once our civic leaders begin to see law enforcement as just another revenue stream, you won’t be able to tell the difference between the cops and the criminals.

Even worse, when a private company is permitted to profit from the commission of a crime, that puts that company on a par with the mob and it makes the police complicit. Now, consider the camera companies’ aggressive lobbying efforts, and I’d rather take my chances with the mob.

Look at Chicago. It starts with a $600 million deficit and ends with red-light cameras every other block and a preposterous private-company parking-meter program that cost Mayor Daley any chance at re-election. Unless my wife drags me there kicking and screaming, I will not set foot in Chicago.

So what I’m saying is, with such a unique and perfect traffic stop philosophy, why undermine it with the installation of even one red-light camera? And that very debate has been a longstanding topic of lengthy conversation between myself and GPD Cmdr. Julie Nash who, along with Cmdr. Eric Passarelli, oversee the camera program.

One could argue that as long as Nash and Passarelli are presiding over that program, those camera tickets will be equitably administered. But I can foresee a day when both of them move on to chief positions in other departments, and then what?

What happens when Gov. Quinn, who’s hatched yet another scheme to siphon money from municipalities, finally succeeds? I’m not a big slippery-slope proponent, but we’re already well on our way down that icy law-enforcement-as-profit-center mountainside.

“In my heart of hearts I know these cameras have made Randall Road safer,” Nash said. “A yellow light doesn’t mean gun it. I know we put them there for the right reasons. We don’t know who’s life they may have saved.”

And there’s the rub! Even Cmdr. Nash had to admit it’s difficult to prove the cameras have a positive effect. And we know what happens to a traffic court case when the officer can’t prove his contention “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

So why risk a hard-earned reputation on the basis of something that not only may not work, but generates such a rabid backlash? Let’s get rid of Geneva (and all) red light cameras once and for all.

I’ve said it before, if those patently unconstitutional devices really modified driver behavior, those “upstanding” and “safety conscious” camera companies would have already put themselves out of business.

Rudy May 18, 2011 at 12:08 PM
I have to agree Jeff profitting off of breaking the Law isn't that what criminals do? A private person (company) profitting from someone breaking the Law! Sounds crimal to me maybe the Feds can investigate ?
Nikki Ryan May 18, 2011 at 02:14 PM
When you wrote "... a private company is permitted to profit from the commission of a crime...", do you mean the company who is selling the red light cameras to the municipalities? How is that company any different than ones that manufacture speed radar guns? The end result of both products is the same. I support red light cameras. I have never had a ticket from a red light camera, contested or otherwise, but I think they are necessary reminders to slow down and obey traffic laws.
Ronald Nader May 18, 2011 at 02:30 PM
Ms. Ryan, the company gets a substantial cut from every ticket written, so there is profit motive for the GPD to write tickets even in marginal cases in which the law probably was not broken. Also, I have doubts about the technology. It seems like those cameras flash just about every time the light turns red--even when it is clear that no motorist is violating the law. It is supposed to be true that Redflex (with definite profit motive!) is supposed to review all cases and that the GPD is supposed to review all cases. Profit motive aside, it is conceivable that both entities miss cases, among all those flashes, that should not be levied a citation. Even if we assume that safety is the rationale for these cameras, this system is significantly flawed at the expense of the law-abiding motoring public.
Nikki Ryan May 18, 2011 at 03:55 PM
Thank you, Ronald, I have never heard that any company profits off the cameras aside from the municipalities themselves. I found some articles that cited such instances, however there is no mention of what cut the company/Redflex takes compared to what municipalities bring in. I trust the city council and police department to make the appropriate decisions to protect the citizens of Geneva. If the red light cameras prove faulty and also generate the most profit for Redflex while leaving Geneva out in the cold, then when the three year time limit is up run over the despicable abominations with a humvee and go back to the police writing tickets.
Ronald Nader May 18, 2011 at 04:20 PM
It *seems* like that Geneva has been fairly rational in ticket-writing from these cameras compared to other municipalities, especially certain ones in DuPage and Cook counties. In fact, this rationality on the part of Geneva has resulted in the strong possibility that Redflex will not renew the three-year contract simply because it is not profitable for its bottom line. The implication is that the only way that Redflex will do business with a municipality is if it issues more tickets on the basis of red-light cameras than it should. Obviously, the GPD is using some discretion. I suppose that the most troublesome aspect of this program is that a corporation is directly involved in the process. I am reminded of the Simpsons episode in which Homer starts his own police department. Moving toward a system where any entity--particularly ones with profit motive--can be the police bothers me; how would you like it if I started a police service and pulled you over on State Street for going 26 in a 25 because MY radar gun said so?
robert poznanski May 18, 2011 at 06:24 PM
This is all part of the Orwellian society that we are increasingly finding ourself's enmeshed in,on a daily basis! It has just taken on a later time frame than was supposed! (1984)
The Ticket Doctor May 19, 2011 at 12:23 AM
Earlier this year I was asked to review a red light camera citation issued by the Geneva Police Department. As a forensic video analyst I analyzed the city’s video evidence on software made for this purpose. The viewing software used by most municipalities including Geneva does not allow the administrative hearing officer or the defendant a fair hearing since all of the video information is not viewable in slow motion. Since the majority of these alleged violations are of split-second technical errors, drivers are no match for the computerized cameras. Slow motion video reveals the photo enforcement errors, but the courts are not technically astute in these matters so drivers lose their rights to fair hearings. The particular Geneva ticket I analyzed purported the reviewing officer was able to see through an adjacent vehicle’s metal fender an accurately sight the offender’s front bumper 4 fours past the white stop line from a rearward view.
Rick Nagel (Editor) May 19, 2011 at 01:55 AM
To The Ticket Doctor—Good post, but please log in using your full name. See Terms of Use.
Barnet Fagel February 08, 2012 at 06:30 PM
Rick, my name is Barnet Fagel and I operate TheTicketDoctor.net web site which helps people get a fair hearing for camera tickets. I am still in awe of the hearing officer's ability to see through metal! Genuinely, I am impressed. All kidding aside, the defendant did not get a fair hearing.....

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