4/17/2014Colorado: Photo Ticketing Ban Clears Committee
Colorado state Senate committee approves a total ban on red light cameras and speed cameras.
The Colorado State Senate took the first step Monday toward eliminating the use of red light cameras and speed cameras in the state. By a bipartisan 3 to 2 vote, the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee approved a measure that would prevent municipalities from hiring for-profit companies to mail automated citations to vehicle owners.
"When we use red light cameras and we say we're increasing safety, and some of the data shows we're not, we're actually giving up our liberty," the bill's sponsor, state Senator Scott Renfroe (R-Greeley), explained. "That's what this bill is about. It's a bill about liberty and our constitutional rights: our right to face our accuser, our right to due process. Those things are not given with a red light camera ticket -- you're assumed to be guilty until you prove yourself innocent. That's not how we should operate in America."
Renfroe had a powerful ally in Denver City Auditor Dennis J. Gallagher who blasted the photo ticketing program in a 2011 investigation (read report). Gallagher testified about how his city paid no attention to the effect of red light cameras and speed cameras on accidents. The program generates $7 million in profit for the city.
"The results of the audit indicated that the Denver Police Department had not shown the specific public safety impact of either program," Gallagher said. "If they are not having a tangible impact on improving public safety then perhaps other options for that improvement need to be investigated and implemented that might be better at improving public safety."
In a 2004 audit, Gallagher blasted the lack of oversight of the private companies that run the "school zone" photo radar program.
"We observed that there is insufficient supervision of van drivers," Gallagher wrote. "Drivers are required to set up in neighborhoods or school locations in various parts of the city. The drivers themselves choose when and where to set up in neighborhoods or school locations. Consequently, the vans were not always set up at appropriate locations, for example in school zones after school hours."
The audit also noted Denver would wildly overstate the cost of city personnel assigned to "oversee" the program. Over a few months in 2002 when the camera program was suspended, the budget showed payroll costs being charged to the non-functioning cameras. Around the same time, one employee working full-time on parking tickets was charged as an "expense" for the camera program.
The problems with the private vendors have not improved over the past decade. Earlier this year, the former executive vice president of Redflex Traffic Systems admitted he bribed local officials in Colorado in the hopes of increasing business for his company.
The ticketing ban next heads to the Senate floor where it must pass before heading to the House. Committee passage is significant for Renfroe as his previous attempts to ban cameras have failed at the committee level.
A copy of the legislation is available in a 20k PDF file at the source link below.