2/9/2010Arizona: Speed Camera Companies Hide Behind Paid Victim Advocacy
Traffic camera industry pays for advocates to counter grassroots fight against automated ticketing.
As citizen-led groups in Arizona gain traction in their efforts to drive efforts to place a photo radar ban before voters statewide, automated enforcement companies are opening their checkbooks to oppose the efforts. This Saturday, Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu hosted a high-profile protest outside the Phoenix office of Redflex Traffic Systems. In response, Redflex kicked its own public relations effort into high gear.
At an event inside the Redflex offices, local media interviewed a number of paid advocates. Former Arizona Department of Public Safety Director Roger Vanderpool, for example, is now widely expected to take a job at Redflex now that he has been replaced as Arizona's top cop. Also present was John D. Wintersteen, a long-time friend of the photo ticketing company executives. Most media stories showed Wintersteen and Vanderpool as former law enforcement officials, neglecting to mention Redflex sponsored the interviews.
To further distract from the Sheriff Babeu event, a "victim advocacy" group bankrolled by the industries that profit from photo tickets held a competing event Saturday at the Banner Health Safety Fair in Peoria. Frank Hinds, whose daughter was killed in an automobile accident, serves as spokesman for the Red Means Stop Coalition. The group has received funding and support directly from Redflex and American Traffic Solutions (ATS), the two main providers of photo enforcement, a fact no longer disclosed on the website (view cached version of site, 300k PDF).
The Red Means Stop Facebook group is also filled with representatives of the automated ticketing industry, including ATS spokesman Josh Weiss and the company's general counsel, George Hittner. In January, the group held its annual meeting at the AAA corporate offices. Each speed camera or red light camera ticket issued by a municipality in Arizona carries points that increase insurance rates -- directly boosting profits for insurance companies like AAA.
Using groups headed by victims is a favorite tactic of the National Campaign to Stop Red Light Running, a public relations front created for the photo ticketing companies. The campaign's website specifically recruits victims to be used as lobbying tools for the industry.