LAPD Chief Charlie Beck Defends Red-Light Cameras, Despite $2.6 Million City Loss In Unpaid Tickets

This just in: One brave soul has finally come forward and admitted he likes the infamous red-light camera tickets of Los Angeles!

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, otherwise a pretty popular guy, has one very unpopular opinion to share with the city: He thinks the red-light cameras are effective, life-saving and absolutely necessary. He even wrote a report about it.

The City Controller, and pretty much every other human on the face of Los Angeles, would highly disagree:

Wendy Greuel released a scathing audit of the 32 camera fixtures at the end of September. Among other things, she found that the evil machines -- which have cost the city $2.6 million because operation costs are so high and no one's paying their tickets -- were not necessarily placed at the most dangerous L.A. intersections. She said there was insufficient evidence they had reduced accidents at all.

Greuel requested a response from Beck by the end of October. Instead, it has arrived just in time for Christmas! Oh joy. Here's what the good old boy has to say:

My statistics show that red-light-related traffic collisions have in fact decreased since the cameras were installed in 2006! (The ones Greuel referenced, he says, were taken from too limited a time period to mean much):

From 2004 to 2009, the Department noted an overall 63 percent decrease in red light related traffic collisions at [photo red light] intersections, as well as an overall decrease of 10 percent in all types of collisions. Additionally, there have been no red light related fatalities since program activation (compared to five fatalities in the three years prior to [photo red light] enforcement, from 2004-2006).

He then plays the "that would be prejudiced!" card, in response to her complaint that the cameras were not effectively distributed:

As a matter of information [sassy, right?], selections based on collision history alone would have placed 80 percent of PRL intersections in either the Valley or West Bureaus, leaving little to no coverage for huge swaths of the City and excluding the following five Council Districts entirely: 1, 7, 11, 14, and 15. Uneven distribution can lead to claims that the City is unfairly targeting particular communities. Balanced coverage also provides for equitable distribution of court case load.

Greuel's office has yet to get back to the Weekly on whether she's satisfied with Beck's retort.

Of course, the LAPD isn't paying the $2.6 million tab. Nope -- that would be us, the honorable city taxpayers! Meanwhile, we're also the ones stuck with $446 red-light tickets (plus the traffic-school fee).

There is one last part of the report that particularly interests us, though:

While the court currently refers outstanding [photo red light] citations to their contracted collection agency, GC Services, approximately 56,000 [photo red light] citations remain open and unresolved in the court system. These outstanding citations represent over $7 million in potential revenue to the City. The collection rate for fiscal year 2009/2010 was 23 percent.

That means 77 percent of red-light offenders never paid a dime! And how, exactly, have these free-wheelin' ticket crumplers been punished? Beck essentially points out that they haven't, because the court has refused to contract the Franchise Tax Board -- aka, the Taxman -- to come a-knocking at our doors.

Awesome news. Hell, we're never paying one of those $446 killers again in our lives. Either that or we'll wear a gorilla costume every time we get in the car so no one can identify us in court. And yes, we know someone who did that. High five!


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