9/13/2008Arizona: Speed Camera Used to Intimidate Camera Protesters
Scottsdale, Arizona used a speed camera van to intimidate a strategy meeting for camera protesters.
Scottsdale, Arizona turned the table on its political opponents yesterday by sending a speed camera van to protesters. Ordinarily, it is up to those who dislike photo enforcement to make their way to an automated ticketing location so that they can express their political opinion. This time, however, the city paid a visit to the protesters and used the opportunity to conduct a surveillance operation.
The newly formed group CameraFraud.com openly used its website to encourage local residents to attend a Friday evening meeting to discuss strategies to encourage the city to drop photo ticketing. Soon after learning of the event, Scottsdale updated its photo enforcement schedule for Friday to include a new location. It ordered a van to the 7600 block of East MacDowell Road, the location of Peter Piper Pizza where the activist meeting was held. A photograph taken by an attendee shows that the camera van was perfectly positioned to videotape and identify all patrons entering the restaurant's driveway (view full-size image). It was also parked illegally.
"With hundreds of places where the vans could be located, multiplied by the various times of operation, the chances of such placement being an 'honest mistake' seems highly unlikely -- but not impossible," CameraFraud founder D.T. Arneson wrote. "Now, one is led to wonder if the city is actively attempting to intimidate businesses and perhaps provoke peaceful citizens who are guilty of no crime other than lawful assembly over a pizza pie."
This is not the first time that a city has used photo enforcement equipment to intimidate political enemies. Washington, DC officials ordered a mobile speed camera positioned outside the offices of the Washington Times on New York Avenue. The paper broke several news stories embarrassing to the program, including the admission of the then-mayor that photo radar's main purpose was to generate revenue.
"It was literally right before the entrance to our building," said Brett M. Decker, a former editorial writer for the Times. "Everybody at the paper complained about it."
Scottsdale Police have a history of using arrest powers to intimidate political opposition and support the goals of its photo ticketing program. Last month, for example, officers arrested a man for videotaping a camera protest.