Due to the considerable data and information here, this page is now in several sections for easier reading:
These pages will be reference pages of the voluminous data and research myself and others have performed on this issue. If you’d like to read the many blog posts I have written about automated for-profit law enforcement to see why I think it is a bad idea, click here. There are several links on this page. Look for the blue text, and you can click on it to go to the link.
About this page
This page did not come to be because I received a red light camera ticket. I don’t run red lights, and do not think anyone should. This site is pro-law enforcement. It is decidedly pro-constitutional law enforcement (contact me if you cannot understand the difference). If there is an intersection that has a device, I will avoid it. I do think these drivers (not the vehicle owners) should be ticketed by police officers, so the actual person breaking the law can be punished- and have points assessed. The very fact that points are not assessed under the Florida law (other states are similar as the for-profit companies “help” write the law) shows that the law is not about safety, but instead is about revenue.
I call this system the automated for-profit scheme. Automated devices (with an error rate of anywhere from 80-88%, see the error page for City of Tallahassee’s 2012 Auditor’s report and the work being done in Palm Coast) are used to issue tickets to vehicle owners, not drivers. The devices are installed by for-profit companies that use the force of government (such as license and/or tag suspensions) to ensure they are paid. A scheme is a plan, design, or program of action to be followed or an underhanded plot. The more you learn about how red light cameras work politically, the more underhandedness you’ll find. Whenever a scheme involves millions of dollars, integrity is usually in short supply.
This page will link the analysis reports I have performed, and also other relevant research, such as the 2012 DHSMV “analysis” of red light cameras in Florida. Click the links above to read it as well as my analysis of the state’s report and some possible criminal activity I discovered in August 2013. I found the need to perform these analysis reports when I read local official after local official touting huge reductions in crashes due to automated for-profit devices. New as of August 2014 is ticket data where camera scheme tickets were documented to be issued after yellow light time was legally shortened, or questionable tickets were issued- such as a 155 MPH 2008 Chevy truck. My thanks to David Shaw in Orlando for this work on this.
What causes a red light violation crash?
My experience as a highway patrol trooper and later traffic homicide investigator taught me these horrendous crashes are caused by impaired (drunk) or inattentive drivers. When I asked several reporters in the news media to investigate how many crashes at camera intersections were caused by red light violations before and after use of the camera scheme, only two ever responded that they would as of August 2012. To their credit, Andy Alcock of WCTV in Tallahassee and Whitney Ray of Capital News Service both have conducted stories on this issue. In 2013, Noah Pransky of WTSP investigated and found shorter yellow lights in many Tampa Bay area cities. Click here for the difference between a “reporter” and a “journalist.” These same outlets seem to have no problem reporting camera company press releases that are disguised as “news”, usually via a local official telling us how much crashes have been reduced due to red light “related” crashes.
We must question the facts as they are reported. This is why I have linked the data I received or placed it in the report. I found in one case here in Tallahassee, a series of news stories claimed a multiple-fatality crash was caused by a red light violation (RLV). I bought the crash report and found it was not. That station blocked my comment pointing out their error, and they have not updated the story as of June 2012.
I don’t call people names other than some politicians liberty-killers- and this is based upon their voting or legislative record. I look at laws and facts and make logical conclusions. These reports are based upon the data available, either from the city or in Florida usually the State Department of Transportation’s crash data. I do not believe it is 100% accurate, but it is the best source available short of buying hundreds of crash reports at $16 each, which I cannot afford to do and I also lack the driver information required to obtain them. As of October 2014, I have all DOT crash data for state and local roads for the period of 2005-2011, and DHSMV crash data for 2007-June 2014. I will be able to perform more thorough analysis work that will include local roads.
Help with the fight
If you would like to help fight this battle, some friends of mine are setting up a non-profit to do so as of February 2013. The organization is the non-partisan Liberty First Florida Network. The site is located at www.libertyfirstfl.org. This site will allow individuals to donate to efforts to restore liberty in Florida. On this issue alone, the camera companies and our local government are spending millions of dollars to work against our rights. We are in dire need of equal time at the Legislature.
“Automated for-profit law enforcement is a bad idea“
Google that phrase and you’ll find many comments I’ve left on news articles involving the use of automated for-profit devices. Why don’t I call them red light cameras? Because the lawmakers in Florida don’t call them cameras. They are “traffic infraction detectors” in the statute- which leaves them wide open for other traffic use, such as speeding and school bus/railroad crossing/stop sign enforcement. One vendor is doing all of this along with “code compliance” cameras that spy on your private property.
Likewise, I call them as I see them. Our police officers, who are the most qualified to work traffic enforcement and can take the totality of the circumstances into consideration when taking enforcement action (this may include a warning), have been bypassed here due to automation. Police officers also don’t routinely ticket someone that didn’t break the law and then make them eventually come to court to prove their innocence. Bad idea #1.
When you allow a company that is for-profit to utilize the weight and force of government to conduct their operations, some would call this a “public-private partnership”. I call it a bad idea. In this case, the company, not the local police, gets the raw data and has not only an opportunity for misconduct, but a financial incentive as well. More “violations” equals more profits. This is unlike our police officers, who make the same amount if they write 1 or 100 tickets (ticket quotas in Florida are illegal). Bad idea #2.
Opposition from a local official
As it turns out, I’m really not alone in this assessment. In February 2013, Pinellas County Florida Clerk of Court Ken Burke wrote a three-page letter to St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster asking him to impose a moratorium on automated for-profit tickets until the unfair statute could be corrected (Florida Motorist Rights Restoration Act, anyone?). Read his letter here. He even went so far as to ask the Florida League of Cities support this idea- their lobbyist has testified about how great this enforcement is, so do not hold your breath on that happening.
As an update, Clerk Burke’s concerns were silenced with more money. A 1:35 AM Amendment by Sen. Jeff Brandes on the day before the legislative session ended made many changes to the law, mostly very bad (see legislation section below). One of these was that the city could now tack on up to $250 for costs for anyone using the new “kangaroo court” system. There was also a $50 charge if you requested a hearing and then changed your mind. Once again, it is all about money.
How about other states? According to the Governors Highway Safety Association website, here is the status as of June 2012:
Red Light Cameras
Prohibited: 9 states
Limited: 11 + Virgin Islands
Permitted: 10 states + D.C.
No state law: 20
Have program(s) operating: 24 + D.C., Virgin Islands
You can also see if another state uses the “path of least resistance” method of lower fines and no points to raise revenue. I noted Florida’s regular fine there ($125) was about half what it actually is.