7/2/2006Northern San Diego Courts Swamped by Camera Tickets
Northern San Diego County suburbs are making millions from red light cameras, but courts are straining under the paperwork.
Red light camera in six northern San Diego, California suburbs are responsible for a 50 percent increase in the number of tickets issued. The increase is generating massive revenue along with long lines and backlogs at county courthouses. North county cities began installing the devices two years ago, despite the disastrous experience in the city of San Diego where a 2001 court case uncovered evidence that the camera vendor operating the program had manipulated pavement sensors to trap innocent motorists.
The most prolific camera ticket writer, the city of Vista, wrote 7573 photo citations in 2005 worth $2,658,123 in revenue. Australian vendor Redflex took $673,997 in profit from the deal and the county pocketed $1,401,005. Escondido wrote 3177 tickets worth $1,115,127 in revenue.
The cities claim they are breaking even on the camera programs after paying officers to "review" citations, but evidence from court trials throughout the state have shown that employees for Australian vendor Redflex and Dallas vendor ACS are the only individuals who actually decide guilt and innocence.
"If Lockheed [San Diego's camera vendor, now doing business as ACS] decides a citation should issue," San Diego Judge Ronald L. Styn wrote in 2001, "it reviews the Department of Motor Vehicles' information regarding the registered owner and, with that information, prints the citation, including printing the signature of the sergeant in charge of the program on the citation."
"Further, once Lockheed determines that a citation will not issue, that decision is not reviewed by the City," Styn wrote.