9/13/2009Automated Enforcement Assaulted in Australia, France, Maryland, UK
Speed cameras are spraypainted, toppled, shot and firebombed on three continents.
Opponents of automated enforcement have become increasingly creative in efforts to thwart speed cameras, as demonstrated by recent events. In Devon, England last Monday, vigilantes sacrificed a blue Volvo 240 to incinerate a speed camera, the Plymouth Herald reported. At around 1am, the Volvo was parked under the camera on Outland Road in Peverell and set on fire. The ensuing blaze fully destroyed the camera. Devon and Cornwall Police have no idea who might be responsible.
In the US, such attacks are more common than one would realize from news reports alone. The Washington Times revealed last weekend that Maryland officials concealed the extent to which vigilantes have been successfully disabling photo radar devices. The paper used a Freedom of Information Act request to force Montgomery County officials to reveal that automated ticketing machines were attacked twenty-seven times since they became operational two years ago. Sixteen attacks involved spray paint, camera housings were pried open three times, camera lenses were scratched three times, paintball guns hit the cameras twice, and once black nail polish blurred a camera lens.
Police Lieutenant Paul Starks told The Times that the department conceals reports of such incidents for fear they might inspire copycats. Police have no suspects for these cases. Even this total undercounts the number of incidents as it does not include cases where the word "SCAM" was painted as a warning to motorists about a hidden camera ahead or cases where Post-It Notes were used to block lenses.
In Queensland, Australia last Tuesday, vigilantes toppled over a speed camera some time around 10pm, the Toowoomba Chronicle reported. The A$250,000 automated ticketing machine had been installed just eight days previously on the Warrego Highway at Redwood when vigilantes loosened four of the eight bolts securing the camera pole to its concrete base. Once loosened, the vigilantes pushed the camera pole over and cut the exposed electrical and data wiring.
In France, a vigilante pulled a gun on a speed camera last Sunday. The automated ticketing machine was located at Porte d'Espagne in Perpignan, Pyrenees-Orientales, according to Midi Libre. Police arrested a 27-year-old who apparently admitted to "blowing a fuse" after being flashed by the camera. He returned to his home, retrieved a gun, covered his plate and drove back to the camera and blasted it with several rounds. Police quickly caught up to him after residents called to report hearing gunfire. The man faces trial October 16.