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California red light cameras raise red flags, auditor says


From: "Diamond, Richard" <Richard.Diamond@mail.house.gov>
Subject: CA Camera Report: Privacy Problems, Short Yellow, Revenue Motive
Date: Wed, 24 Jul 2002 20:35:41 -0400

A new report by the California State Auditor proves several important 
points:(1) Most red light camera violations happen within the first second 
of yellow; (2) Serious privacy problems exist; (3) Revenue is officially 
one of LA's camera motives.  The report can be found here:


[ 1 ] Cities banking on inadequate yellow time

According to the report, "a significant percentage of the issued citations 
are for red light violations that occur within one second of the light 
turning red." (p. 43).  What this means is that if the yellow light is 
extended a mere second, the majority of the red light running problem goes 
away, as we have found happen in several communities including San Diego, 
and Fairfax, VA. Here's the data:

<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

Percentage of Citations Occurring Within One Second of the Red Light

<?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = 
"urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Fremont*       88%

Long Beach    84

Los Angeles         86

Oxnard           73

Sacramento    82

San Diego      57

San Francisco       72

Source:Vendor data since the inception of each program. However, San 
Francisco is 2001 data only.

*Fremont data are for violations captured by red light cameras rather than 
citations issued.

[ 2 ]  Privacy Problem

"Our review found at least two instances where vendors misused photographs 
taken by red light cameras. In one instance, a photograph that showed a 
bicyclist being struck by a vehicle in San Francisco was posted in the 
hallway of the San Diego Police Department." Page 21

[3 ] Los Angeles Admits Money is their Motive

Page 26 has a chart that indicates "Increased revenue" is a criterion for 
intersection selection for Los Angeles.  Please note that even this chart 
is as pro-camera a statement of the facts in California as you can get.  We 
would be happy to provide the *real* criteria San Diego used to choose 
intersections, from memos released at trial (hint: short yellow, downhill 
approach and high volume are the key criteria).

Finally, let's address some problems in the report.  Although the report 
does a good job of hiding the extreme profit generated by the $270 red 
light camera ticket (highest in the nation), the fact is that the following 
entities are huge amounts of money:

The State of California

Insurance Companies (California assesses points to licenses)

Camera vendors like ACS, Nestor, etc.

Just because a few cities haven't gotten the money-making formula down 
quite right yet, that shouldn't distract from the the millions generated by 
the cameras. Also, the accident statistics are quite selective, leaving out 
the massive increase in rear end collisions caused by the cameras.  The 
report makes it look like San Diego had an accident decrease. That's 
inaccurate -- look at the facts:


Richard Diamond
Office of the Majority Leader
U.S. House of Representatives
202-225-6007 / www.freedom.gov

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