Los Angeles Red-Light Cameras May Be Turned Off

Although police officers argue that the cameras have aided safety efforts, commissioners claimed that the program has serious flaws.

by / June 8, 2011

The Los Angeles Police Commission voted unanimously to shut down the city’s red-light traffic camera program on Tuesday, June 7.

The five-member commission, which oversees the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), heard and rejected a proposal from law enforcement officials that would have continued the cameras’ operation, which are located at 32 intersections throughout the city.

Although police argued to the commission that the cameras have helped with safety efforts throughout Los Angeles, commissioners claimed that the program had serious flaws, including a lack of citation enforcement, according to a report from the Los Angeles Times.

The Los Angeles Independent reported that commissioners were also concerned with the program’s cost, saying budget cuts imposed by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa ran counter to supporting a three-to-five-year contractual agreement with a private company to run the red-light cameras. John Mack, the commission’s president, also expressed reservation that the company recommended by the LAPD to operate the cameras is the Arizona-based American Traffic Solutions Inc. 

The Los Angeles City Council has until June 17 to overrule the commission’s decision. A reversal would require a two-thirds vote.

National Issue

Red-light cameras have caused a flurry of debate nationwide. In Missouri, cities that have pursued red-light camera programs may run afoul of state law, according to Sen. Jim Lembke, who sponsored a bill to outlaw the cameras in Missouri.

Ironically the bill proposal came after a national study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a nonprofit organization funded by auto insurers, found that cameras placed in 14 large cities saw a 24 percent decrease in fatal red-light crashes. In addition, the organization revealed that had the cameras been present in the 99 largest U.S. cities from 2004-2008, 815 deaths would have been prevented.

Despite the statistics, however, Lembke was steadfast that the cameras in Missouri cities violate citizens’ rights. “When you look at the actual premise, it’s on the legal presumption that the owner of the vehicle is the one driving,” Lembke said. “That’s unconstitutional on its face.”

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