Weren't the red light cameras one of the things that helped prove Charlie Samuel as guilty in the kidnapping and murder of Lily Burk?
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Big Brother may not be watching L.A. drivers anymore. The city Police Commission voted unanimously on June 7 against an LAPD recommendation for a new five-year, $15 million contract to continue operating the widely hated red-light cameras at 32 intersections citywide.
The Los Angeles City Council can overturn the Police Commission with a supermajority, but on Tuesday council members Tony Cardenas and Bernard Parks instead floated a plan to pressure the commission to reverse its vote — which ends the program on July 31 — and to conduct a "safety study" while keeping the camera contract alive, on a monthly basis, for one year.
The unpopular cameras have churned out virtually unbeatable tickets to tens of thousands of Angelenos, most of whom got socked with an eye-popping $450 fine for rolling through a right turn on red — a violation that almost never results in accidents.
If the Police Commission holds firm, the slayer of the electronic Goliaths, and arguably L.A.'s newest folk hero, is a very unlikely David.
San Fernando Valley resident and sometime TV writer and producer Jay Beeber politely pestered the Police Commission and City Council with studies showing that, despite repeated claims by Los Angeles Police Department brass, red-light cameras were not a major factor in improving safety.
More than 100,000 motorists were cited by the silent sentinels over 10 years. According to the LAPD, only 1 percent of motorists won "not guilty" findings in court. Atop the $450, drivers paid traffic school fees and costly insurance hikes.
Yet an audit by City Controller Wendy Greuel revealed that the city was losing more than $1 million a year on the program.
How did an unknown Hollywood producer, whose key project was "Kisses and Caroms" in 2006, help persuade L.A. to become the biggest U.S. city to turn against red-light cameras — a decision that, if it stands, is likely to reverberate nationally?
"Jay's done a great job synthesizing his research, which we helped proof and critique," says Gary Biller, executive director of the National Motorists Association. "It's been a tireless effort on his part. He's a libertarian at heart and for him it's a fairness issue — how unfair it is to get a $450 ticket for a rolling right turn. Jay's campaign shows what a grassroots effort can do against a very large program in a very large city. He's taken on City Hall, and to this point it looks like he's won."
Beeber says he was motivated by sheer scientific curiosity rather than anger. He hasn't had a moving violation in 20 years. But in 2009, he began to apply the scientific method he learned at the University of Michigan to the data supporting the use of red-light-camera tickets.
He estimates he spent thousands of hours, and ultimately caught LAPD making dubious claims based on iffy data. One such claim was that five fatal accidents occurred at specific intersections before the red-light cameras were installed, and none occurred after. But two of the five accidents were not red light–related, he says, and a third involved a drunken driver who zipped through despite a camera there, mounted by a previous vendor. The fourth, "caused by a young distracted driver," likely would not have been prevented by a camera.
"They were suggesting the cameras were stopping fatalities," he says, "but the examples they gave would not have been stopped by a red-light camera."
Beeber wrote detailed reports on arcane issues such as the wisdom of increasing the "yellow light interval" and calmly repeated his findings during appearances on KABC and KFI radio— to strong public reaction.
Among other things, the image of "red-light runners" isn't accurate, he says. "Most people are caught in the dilemma zone: Do I stop or go through the light? In almost every case, lengthening the yellow light cuts red-light violations, as people see the light further back." Loma Linda, he says, lengthened yellow lights by one second and red-light violations dropped 92 percent.
One expert Beeber contacted, Dr. Barbara Langland-Orban of the University of South Florida, found in a 2008 study that red-light cameras increase accidents because drivers see the camera and slam on their brakes.
Langland-Orban says, "Jay has worked diligently to make himself an expert," adding dryly, "Communities would benefit from elected officials doing likewise."
Charles Territo, vice president of communications at Scottsdale, Ariz.–based American Traffic Solutions, which operates 3,000 cameras in 300 communities, will lose a $15 million contract if the Police Commission vote stands. He's dismissive of Beeber, saying, "Just because he says it, doesn't make it so."
Territo says LAPD stats show a 62 percent decrease in accidents at intersections after cameras were installed. But Beeber says, "Most of the studies that show the cameras were effective were put out by groups with a financial interest in keeping the cameras, like the Insurance Group for Highway Safety."
He says that of about 56,000 accidents studied in L.A., rolling right turns, which represent some 75 percent of the red-light camera tickets, caused only 45 crashes.
He started to realize "this was much more about revenue than safety," and redoubled his efforts after Greuel's report, which found that "the city actually incurred a net cost of more than $1.5 million in 2008 and $1 million in 2009 to operate the Photo Red Light Program."
Feeling vindicated by Greuel's audit, Beeber met with LAPD and city Department of Transportation officials, then later spoke before the Police Commission. He lobbied City Council members.
"The city government and council had only been hearing one side," Beeber says. "I put together a grassroots organization to have these things heard. Then we put up the website [saferstreetsla.org] and it got more people interested." Before he knew it, many people were behind him and several "came down to speak at City Hall and before the Police Commission."
Police Commissioner Alan Skobin says he didn't buy into all of Beeber's claims, but Beeber "supplied the commission helpful information that was well documented."
Skobin was bothered by the fact that people who failed to pay the $450 faced "virtually no consequences." Unknown to tens of thousands of drivers who did pay the fine, the Los Angeles Superior Court, queasy over robot-issued tickets, quietly chose not to issue arrest warrants or put driver's license holds on those who failed to pay the tickets. "The LAPD went back to [the court officials] and the courts said, 'It's often not clear who the driver is.' "
Skobin thinks it could be more effective to try a longer yellow light, four-way red signal, education and enforcement. "And as Mr. Beeber pointed out," he says, "many of the accidents were drunk drivers going through the red. So the camera didn't matter" as a deterrent.
Territo of American Traffic Solutions scoffs, "Somehow, the people who run the lights have labeled themselves as victims, when the real victims are the 212 people killed [in Los Angeles] and thousands injured," in the past decade.
If Los Angeles yanks the cameras, it will have company. Voters in Houston and Anaheim last year banished them, Costa Mesa and Compton rejected them and Whittier pulled out. When Loma Linda banned them last year, Mayor Rhodes Rigsby said, "Ding-dong, the witch is dead."
"You can make a difference if you really believe in something," Beeber says. "But it's a marathon. You have to continue day after day after day to make a difference, because power doesn't give up power easily."
Weren't the red light cameras one of the things that helped prove Charlie Samuel as guilty in the kidnapping and murder of Lily Burk?
Closing down the red light cameras was always a win-win even last year when the LA City voted to over-ride their own Arizona boycott to continue the contract.
Then the simple question is why would any Councilmember not support the LAPD Commissioner's recommendations?
Now everyone agrees (except for those who benefit financially) that the contract for red-light cameras should be discontinued:
1. It is unsafe. Several studies have shown that people either floor it or slam on the brakes when they see the red light camera and are near the intersection on a yellow.
2. It loses revenues. If it improved safety, perhaps the safety aspect would over ride the financial costs.
3. Savvy motorists will realize that not paying a ticket from a red light camera in LA County has no consequences to their driving record or credit rating.
4. The City Council can avoid doing business with another Arizona-based company.
I observed for 2 hours at Jefferson and La Brea intersection while DOT traffic officers were directing traffic, Traffic lights were out because of the light-rail construction. Not one accident occured. Not one citation had to be issued. Despite the heavy traffic, traffic flowed in an orderly manner. If Cardenas and Parks really want to prevent accidents, then let's place traffic officers at these 32 intersections. I know in good conscience, as Cardenas says, that he doesn't want to endanger motorist lives. So, the cost to place DOT officers at these 32 intersections can not be compared to saving ones life. The cost of a DOT officer is nothing compared to what it would cost if you add in all emergency agencies and services involved. Plus saving the millions for the taxpayers, instead of a $500 extortion scheme.FaceBook; David Barronw.barron4cc.com
Thank you so much for this article Jay. It opened my eyes to the fact that we can question authority
These red light camera's should be seen for what they are - revenue generators. I received a red light ticket in Van Nuys for being 2 tenths of a second into the light - that's 2 tenths of a second - do you realize how short an increment of time this is? How do I know the accuracy was correct at that exact, specific moment in time, irregardless of maintenance done hours, days or weeks before. In addition, the speed limit on the ticket showed the speed for the area was 35mph, with a related yellow time of 3.6 seconds. In actuality, the posted speed limit on the street (White Oak in Van Nuys at the busway intersection) was 40 mph, thus the yellow time should have been 3.9 seconds. I timed it a total of 5 times, and the yellow time was 3.6 seconds. When tenths of a second count, accuracy is absolutely required. The ticket amount was $480 dollars. How does this improve safety and decrease accidents? Why can't the yellow lights be extended longer? Why can't all lights be red at the same time for a second longer? Why does a significant monetary penalty exist when other less costly alternatives exist? Clearly, the company which makes these cameras has a vested interest (monetary). They should be done away with. Needless to say I am fighting this ticket and appreciate your support - financial to hire a lawyer or Pro Bono to defend me. My trial date is August 25th at 1:30pm in Van Nuys courthouse, Division 109. My email is email@example.com. Help me make a stand against these robbers disguising themselves as promoters of safety and the public interest!
The police chief of Huntington Beach put the kabosh on the idea of red light cameras in his city, saying that he was afraid they would cause more accidents than they would prevent.
Tomorrow members of the City Council are trying to make an end-run around the Police Commission by extending the current contract for another year. Go to my website http://saferstreetsla.org/ and take action. Also you can come to city hall tomorrow and let the council know how you feel about this.
There is a red light camera in my [Northern California] city that nets the city a quarter million dollars – a MONTH! On one intersection!
This isn't about safety. As usual, it's all about money. Red light cameras are the modern equivalent of rural speed traps that pour money into city hall.
Thanks Mr. Beeber. I was appalled to discover that paying for a red light photo ticket, admits guilt and counts as a point on your DMV record. Don't pay and your record will be clean.
This thing isn’t over yet. As noted in the article, two city council members who have been heavily lobbied by the camera company are trying to get the council to keep this thing going for another year. The camera company is planning to pack the room with their “supporters”. There are a couple of things you can do. Go to my action page at http://saferstreetsla.org/acti... and send an email to the whole council it takes just a few seconds. Also, come to City Hall tomorrow to speak out against the cameras. This is one of those rare times when your actual presence there will make an impact. Info here: http://saferstreetsla.org/exte...
Jay Beeber is proof that being a concerned citizen still counts. L.A. is *our* city and it's high time we started treating it that way. Thanks for blazing a trail, Jay!
There are long lists of cities and states that have banned or voted out the cameras at www.thenewspaper.com Proper engineering of speed limits and traffic lights will improve safety by more than ticket camera programs. James C. Walker, NMA, Ann Arbor, MI
When the actual facts are fully vetted, red light cameras never pass scrutiny. A great job by Jay and the National Motorists Assocition. LA citizens should contact the Council and tell them to put that final nail in the RLC coffin.
anything that Bernard Parks supports should be questioned. He needs something to do while ultimately doing nothing. The states is ripping off citizens and not spending money wisely while fattening the pockets of an Arizona based company at citizens expense.
Read here on ATS "practices": http://www.banthecams.org/2011...
Also hear the interview with ATS Tokyo Charle where he gets called out and later rebuffed in a other interview with MO Anti Camera site www.wrongonred.com:
Interview is located here: http://camerafraud.wordpress.c...
Brought to you by myself who know cameras are a SCAM!
Here's 22 more cities that have pulled out: Rocklin, Fairfield, Burlingame, Union City, Cupertino, Upland, Rancho Cucamonga, El Monte, Yucaipa, Maywood, Redlands, Moreno Valley, Paramount, Irvine, San Bernardino, Roseville, Berkeley, Fresno, Montclair, Indian Wells, Fullerton, Santa Fe Springs.
We do need to contact our LA Councilmembers, but while we are on the phone we need to call Sacramento. AB 529, by Asm. Gatto (Glendale), will allow cities to reduce posted speed limits by 5 mph. The 5 mph decrease will, in turn, allow them to shorten yellows by 0.3 to 0.4 second, which will produce more camera tickets (four of the sponsoring cities have cameras). How many more tickets? The shortening will increase ticketing by at least 50%. And it will raise severe accidents by 30%.
This bill is moving along, rapidly, with a critical hearing as early as June 20.
If you are concerned, phone your assemblyperson and your state senator, by Friday. It takes a couple minutes per call. And then if you have more time, phone your auto club.
Scott, I've followed this discussion since I was hit by a red light camera... twice. I did research, paid for "ticket buster" advice, I fought the ticket (same argument as you) ... and lost. Twice. And then I paid. And then my insurance rates went up. You simply cannot win... you'd be the first and that ain't happening. These cameras are a travesty of justice.
Here's the kicker and here's what I have learned by following City Hall's proceedings. (I went there last week, and watched the session live on TV today.) These tickets have no teeth. They are not enforceable and they are not enforced. If you pay, you are admitting guilt and you'll get reported to the DMV and your insurance company. If you fight, you will lose. Then you're still guilty, you still need to pay, and the DMV/your insurance are notified.
Your best approach is to simply throw the ticket away. Ignore it. There are no consequences. Toss it in the trash. You've acknowledged nothing to the court and they cannot prove you owe anything. I wish I knew then what I knew now. Now I am out ~$900 for the tickets, and thousands more in raised insurance rates. I need to wait patiently for three years to pass so these points get removed from my record.
That said, Jay Beeber is a hero. Today's vote was positive but the fight isn't completely over yet. City Hall is keeping the conversation alive until the contract is set to expire at the end of July. Then and only then, apparently, will be dead for good.
I cannot wait for these red light cameras to be dismantled to I can piss on them. I'm anxious and sad every time I drive nowadays, for fear of getting caught by yet another one. I simply can't afford that, financially or mentally.
Did you even read the report? He's not saving lives, he's just saving money. The point here is that the red light cameras were not saving lives either.
Jay Beeber is a loal hero who is working to change policy and save lives. However, if you get caught by one of these devices in California, you may wish to talk to an attorney who specializes in traffic defense: Sherman Ellison www.ShermanEllison.com is the GO TO guy and a huge fan of Jay Beeber!
Why is then City of LA losing $1m a year on the program? And why is LAPD trying so hard to keep the program going?
(I do think RLCs are evil and essentially a money maker for insurance companies first and foremost - with little benefit for ANYONE else. Thanks Jay Beeber for fighting this.)
"Appalled" isn't the right word for me. I've gotten TWO of these absurd tickets in the last 2 years. Fought both and lost, obviously. And then paid. My insurance company dropped me as a result of these extra points on my record. So I had to sign up with another, at 3x the cost. The amount of money I've had to pay as a result of these ridiculously unfair cameras is obscene. None of the "ticket busting" outfits gave me any useful information. I wish I'd known I could just ignore these freaking tickets. What a scam this whole enterprise is.
Jay Beeber is my new hero and if these efforts succeed, he has done this city (and ultimately our country) a great service. I can feel comfortable (and ultimately, safer) driving in Los Angeles again.