7/29/2014Illinois: Chicago Red Light Camera Spotlight Expands
Protests and investigations continue over irregularities in the Chicago, Illinois red light camera program.
The world's largest municipal red light camera, beset by a $2 million bribery scandal, is facing renewed scrutiny from the public and investigators. On Friday, the inspector general for the city of Chicago, Illinois announced a formal inquiry into the photo ticketing program in the wake of blockbuster reporting from the Chicago Tribune newspaper.
"Once again, the city's red light camera program is in the spotlight, and again it's not something beneficial to drivers," Chicago Alderman Scott Waguespack explained in an email to constituents. "This time there were problems caused by 'faulty equipment, human tinkering or both' and thousands of drivers were wrongly fined by the city for red light camera 'violations.'"
According to the Tribune's analysis of all of the photo tickets issued since 2007, at least 9000 citations were issued during "random" spikes related to either overly short yellow signal times, a change to the way right-turn on red is enforced or other system faults. Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) said he would allow the motorists who received these tickets to file a new challenge. The mayor and aldermen sent separate requests to city Inspector General Joseph M. Ferguson asking for a formal investigation.
"OIG will publicly report the findings from its review of past activities, along with any recommendations for how the city, working with the new vendor, can assure the program operates effectively and fairly in the future," the inspector general's announcement stated. "If the review reveals any indication of purposeful manipulation or unlawful conduct, OIG will take action to investigate and will work with the appropriate prosecutorial authorities."
Last year, the inspector general issued a report finding no evidence that the red light camera program had done anything to improve safety in the Windy City (view report). Ferguson promised that this review would be "unconditional" looking into all areas of public concern.
Public concern is growing. On Friday, volunteers with the group Citizens to Abolish Red Light Cameras will meet to discuss plans for the weeks ahead. The group has been holding weekly protest throughout the city demanding removal of the automated ticketing machines.