11/13/2006California: Cops Reject Red Light Camera Sales Pitch
Monterey Park, California chooses engineering improvements at intersections over the installation of red light cameras.
At least sixty-eight cities in the state of California have accepted what is an increasingly irresistible sales presentation from red light camera vendors such as Texas-based ACS and Australia's Redflex. These companies approach local officials and police departments offering substantial revenue with no strings attached and no effort required on the part of police. Monterey Park is one of the handful of cities to reject the pitch.
"The company told us we have a red-light running problem," Monterey Park Police Sergeant David Elliott told the San Gabriel Valley Tribune. "They said we had 300 people run the light over three days."
After examining photographs from a trial red light camera set up in the city, Elliott concluded that only two of them represented offenses for which a human police officer would issue a citation. The rest were split-second technical violations visible only to a camera lens. A statewide audit of photo enforcement programs showed split-second violations accounted for as many as 88 percent of tickets issued.
"I gave the system its due, and it showed it wasn't something that would benefit the community," Elliott said.
Monterey Park has chosen instead to make a number of engineering improvements known to yield substantial safety benefits, including adjusting signal timing.
Other cities have rejected light cameras after having tried the program for some time. Cupertino dropped the devices in 2004 saying the safety results were, "mixed at best." Fresno dropped them in 2005 and Santa Rosa in 2000 because they did not bring in enough revenue. Irvine dropped cameras in 2001.