5/2/2007Louisiana: Hurricane Ravaged City Embraces Red Light Cameras
Speed cameras and red light cameras will ticket motorists in the devastated city of New Orleans, Louisiana.
Although the city has yet to recover fully from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, Louisiana officials are pushing forward on a plan to install a set of twenty red light cameras and speed cameras. Led by Mayor Ray Nagin, the city council in February approved an ordinance allowing a private company to issue automated tickets on behalf of the city which, as of the last official census estimate, stood at half the population it had before the August 2005 disaster. Nonetheless, companies vying for the rights to this lucrative ticketing contract have until next Wednesday to convince city leaders to embrace their particular offerings.
The city published an invitation to bid that asked each company to set up a system that automatically tickets motorists, collects payment and deposits the money in a city bank account created by the contractor. The selected contractor will be responsible for issuing "escalating demands" to anyone with an overdue ticket. The contractor will also produce a public relations campaign promoting the system and create a "research summary confirming effectiveness of program in other markets."
In return, the selected company will collect a per-ticket bounty for every ticket it is able to issue -- likely to total several million dollars. The city plays no role whatsoever in the program's operation, except that it reserves the authority to cancel tickets generated by police officers and other favored individuals for any reason. Even in matters traditionally reserved to the courts, the camera vendor will play a significant role.
"The contractor will provide systems to review, research, recommend, and resolve exceptions to liability," the invitation to bid states. "By mail, e-mail, telephone, and otherwise, the contractor will receive timely explanations and objections why an identified vehicle owner is not responsible for a cited violation. It will research each exception and submit a report and recommendation to the city. Only the city may change a citation, and the contractor will implement its decisions and related directions."
"The contractor will promptly report not guilty pleas to the city," the invitation to bid also states. "The city will adjudicate such matters with contractor support."
The support includes a "Court Training Course" where city personnel will be trained on "the tactics of defendants, and the typical countermeasures used by the prosecution."
Ethical and financial difficulties surround many of the companies likely to bid. In Edmonton, Canada, the leading Dallas-based photo enforcement contractor, Affiliated Computer Services, is on trial for bribing two police officers in an attempt to secure a no-bid contract worth $90 million. The company is currently Edmonton's contractor. Similarly, Shawn Brown, the former mayor of St. Peters, Missouri was caught soliciting a bribe in return for his assent to a camera contract with Australian camera vendor Redflex. Redflex is currently the vendor of St. Peters, while Brown is imprisoned until August 2008. Red light camera Nestor, Inc. faces removal from the Nasdaq stock exchange as its stock value has plunged below a dollar.
The idea for the cameras came to the city as it hosted the Governors' Highway Safety Association's national convention in 2003. The group is one of the photo enforcement industry's biggest supporters. Other Louisiana cities have embraced the use of photo enforcement, despite the lack of state authorization. Last month, the Baker city council proposed a contract authorizing Australian vendor Redflex to issue tickets to motorists. The unauthorized use of cameras, however, has proved dangerous in other states. Four Iowa courts (view ruling) and the Minnesota Supreme Court (view ruling) have recently declared the practice illegal.
View the request for bids in a 1.4mb PDF file at the source link below.