L.A. Police Commission votes to kill red-light camera program
June 7, 2011 | 2:58 pm
The City Council, which directed the LAPD to seek bidders for a new contract, could take the unusual step of stripping the commission of its authority on this issue and decide for itself whether to continue with the cameras. If the council does not act within 10 days, police officials said, the cameras will be shut down.
The Los Angeles Police Commission Tuesday rejected a proposal from police officials to continue the city’s red light traffic-camera program, a move that would shut down the controversial cameras in days unless the City Council opts to strip the commission of its authority on the issue.
The unanimous vote by the five-member panel that oversees the LAPD came as somewhat of a surprise to police officials, who went into the meeting armed with a recommendation that the commission award a new three- or five-year contract to the company that has been operating the 32 cameras scattered throughout the city for years.
Instead of discussing the merits of that company’s service over others, however, commissioners returned to a long-running debate over the cameras that has played out at several meetings in recent months and focused on the basic questions of whether they do any good and are cost effective. Throughout, police officials have argued that the cameras have led to a significant decrease in the number of traffic accidents and fatalities at the intersections.
Those claims were looked at with skepticism by members of the commission, who also questioned the legitimacy of the tickets that are issued to drivers captured by the cameras running red lights. Since local courts do not pursue people who refuse to pay the tickets, which typically run more than $400, the camera program essentially was a "voluntary citation program. There’s no teeth in it, no enforcement," said Commissioner Alan Skobin. Skobin suggested the department’s practice of sending unpaid tickets to a collection agency might be illegal.
"We have to ask, what is the benefit to the public? What is the downside?" said Commissioner Debra Wong Yang. “And I’m not convinced from looking at the numbers that these cameras work."continue reading...
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