Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Hallelujah! We're not alone

It looks like something is slowly happening. The hypocrisy of Red Light Cameras being used as Big Brother's new way of raising revenue might be finally exposed.

I keep hoping that people will finally understand the "rip off" factor of this outrageous scheme of skimming a little more from the battered citizen.

Here is some information from Texas:

Traffic cameras fall out of favor

DALLAS -- Public support for the use of red light cameras in Texas and across the country could be switching to yellow.

Maine, Mississippi and Montana banned red light cameras last year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Six others have considered similar proposals.

In Texas, voters forced College Station to take down its cameras last fall even though the program brought $1 million in revenue to the city, while opponents in Houston say they have enough petition signatures to put the cameras to a vote this fall. Camera opponents in the Texas Legislature say they plan again to try to pass a measure phasing out the cameras statewide.

"There is a backlash, for sure," state Rep. Solomon Ortiz Jr., D-Corpus Christi. "City budgeters are counting on these fines as a revenue stream and simply using the argument of safety as cover."

But cities using the red camera systems, which capture images, and sometimes video of drivers running red lights, insist they have reduced intersection accidents and saved lives.

"They've performed much better than I ever imagined," said Elizabeth Ramirez, chief traffic engineer for Dallas.

She said Dallas has seen declines in red-light accidents at nearly every one of its 59 camera-equipped intersections since the first wave launched in January 2007.

While camera critics dispute the safety data, the money generated has raised eyebrows as collections have pushed into the tens of millions.

With most Texas cities charging civil fines of between $75 and $100 per violation, collections across the state have reached more than $103 million since a revised red-light camera law took effect in 2007. State figures show Houston has collected the largest amount: about $24 million through May.

A 2007 state law requires cities to set aside half of all profits to help fund regional trauma care centers. Most cities use their share for traffic safety and enforcement efforts.

Houston police Sgt. Michael Muench, who oversees that city's red-light camera program, said his department has put its revenues into crash-scene investigation equipment, extra traffic patrols, radar guns and other traffic-related improvements.

An analysis of state figures and the vendor agreements of about a dozen Texas cities show the contracts cities have with camera vendors are the biggest factor in whether a city makes money. Cities rent the cameras from vendors under negotiated terms. Houston's $24 million in collections since 2007 is more than triple the total fines collected by Dallas, according to figures from the state comptroller's office. And in the last two years, Dallas' program has cost more to run than Houston's.

Houston pays a flat monthly fee of $3,000 per camera, plus bonuses if a camera catches a high number of violations. Dallas pays its vendor $3,800 per camera per month. Houston, which has 70 cameras, uses American Traffic Solutions Inc., of Arizona. Dallas has 59 cameras and uses Dallas-based Affiliated Computer Services.

Paul Kubosh, a Houston traffic attorney who has led the Houston petition drive to repeal the cameras, accuses the city of "selling the streets to the highest bidder. It's a voter revolt."

Associated Press – July 6, 2010

Henry B. Nathan is a Florida Realtor at United Realty Group Inc.
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