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Australia: Employee Alters Traffic Camera Ticket Data
Traffic camera employee caught changing the speed reading on 67,541 tickets in Victoria, Australia.

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The employee of a photo enforcement firm was arrested in Victoria, Australia yesterday after being accused of adjusting the speed readings in a database of photo tickets. Police believe the man identified as a 36-year-old from Craigieburn changed the date, time, speeds and other variables on a total of 67,541 red light camera and speed camera citations. The data were altered between February and March while the man worked for Serco, the private firm in charge of ticketing operations.

"The data changes have had no impact on any infringement issued in relation to the speed or red light camera system," a police news release claimed. "No infringements have been issued to motorists with incorrect data and there is no ongoing impact to any infringements to be issued."

Victoria police have a history of insisting all of its tickets are accurate, regardless of problems uncovered with hardware. Last year, cameras run by Redflex Traffic Systems were found to have faulty speed calculation mechanism, but officials only conceded that nine tickets out of the 68,000 issued were bogus. Similarly, in 2003 police insisted speed cameras on the Hume Highway were accurate until extreme public pressure forced the refund of $26 million in tickets.

In this case, the police E-Crime Squad began investigating after the contractor noticed changes had been made to the database records. National Motorists Association Executive Director Gary Biller believes this sort of problem is to be expected from a system that dispense tickets without human intervention.

"Stories of hackers accessing and tampering with stored data in red-light and speed cameras are not unique to Victoria," Biller told TheNewspaper. "This latest incident does highlight the problem of trying to track crime by database, which is an apt description of photo enforcement. Can a defendant's rights truly be protected without the ability to question in court a live witness to the alleged crime?"

Just such a mistake saw Harmony Henke, 29, falsely arrested in Maroochydore, Queensland on February 25. Henke had received a speed camera ticket for allegedly driving 72km/h (44 MPH) in a 60km/h (37 MPH) zone, but the penalty and points were canceled after she explained that she became sick behind the wheel while pregnant. She received another speed camera ticket in the mail in August, but she had not been behind the wheel. A friend accepted responsibility and Henke's record should have been cleared -- but it was not. She was pulled over on October 31 for driving on a suspended license after a database failed to reflect that her license points had been canceled, the News Mail reported. In February, Henke was stopped again but this time she and her six-month-old baby were processed through the jail. She was cleared only after Queensland Transport supplied a letter confirming that her driving record was clean.

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