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Ohio City Caught Distorting Violation Drop
Middletown, Ohio cites drop in violations as sign of safety success. Drop actually caused by problems with vendor.

Earlier this year, Middletown, Ohio trumpeted a drop in red light camera violations as a sign that the safety program has been a great success. The Middletown Journal newspaper reported today that this may not be true and that the drop in violations may be explained by factors unrelated to any improvement in driver habits.

The city consistently told reporters that the drop in violations was proof of an increase in safety. In February, for example, WCPO-TV reported the following:

"Back in Middletown, Major Mark Hoffman says the number of drivers running red lights is down, and he says that means that their mission is accomplished. 'It's been nearly three years since you put the first cameras up,' Major Hoffman said. 'I think the program has been a success.'"

From April to December 2005, there were 5708 tickets issued or 20.8 per day. In 2006, there were 5732 or 15.7 per day. In 2007, there were 5415 or 14.8 per day. This year, January through May shows just 1844 tickets or 12.2 per day.

The big drop started in May 2007 when the German company Traffipax bought out the camera ticketing contract from Peek Traffic. Since then, one of the city's eight cameras has been out of service and unable to issue any tickets. The city has also complained that the new vendor has kept poor records of both accidents and tickets.

The city was also outraged when revenue plunged from $142,250 in 2006 to just $107,518 in 2007. Anticipating a greater drop this year, the city council earlier this month even considered dropping the program. The Middletown Journal reports that city officials have now been convinced to save the program by hiring a new company to take control of ticketing.

Source: Drop in red-light citations is misleading (Middletown Journal (OH), 6/29/2008)

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