Delaware’s Duplicty: Slanted Reporting on Red Light Cameras

Del_rlc_cover

A friend recently emailed the State of Delaware’s annual red light camera program report. While I don’t live in Delaware, this report is an example of how government officials mislead the public on the red light camera scheme.

The state’s report itself is here (click to download PDF).

I’ve written a review of it that is here (click to download PDF). My thanks to National Motorists Association member and my friend James Walker for reviewing it and adding in some information.

The most glaring issue is that the state used 3 years of “before” crash data against 7 years of “after” crash data. When you look into the report in detail, you’ll also notice the “before” date was the same year the camera scheme there was authorized by state law, although apparently some data did precede that year by going back to 2001.

To it’s credit, the report goes into greater detail about crash data than most I’ve seen. For example, in Florida, only 3 types of crashes are monitored: angle, total, and rear-end. Red light violation (RLV) crashes are ignored, which is really odd for a red light camera program report. Delaware adds the RLV category, and in their description of angle crashes, they properly omit those not caused by a RLV. The odd thing then is that there is a huge gap between the reported reductions in angle (47%) and RLV (29%) crashes. They should be identical, but they are not.

At the end of the report, the various crash types are graphed. As with nearly every other report on the camera scheme released by government, no actual numbers are given. We see annual averages for the 30 locations Delaware uses. As with other governments, they use the “percentage game” to make the scheme look more effective. They report for instance that angle crashes fell by 47% while RLV crashes declined only 29%. If you’re unfamiliar with the percentage game, here is how it works:

A city has had 4 RLV crashes at a particular intersection in the year before use of the scheme. The following year, they only have 2. What sounds better, a reduction of 2 or a reduction of 50%? You’ll see the worst intersection in Delaware had under 5 per year on average. The percentage game also overlooks normal crash fluctuation, such as in Florida when the 123 fatal RLV crashes in 2006 dropped to only 56 by 2009 without use of a camera scheme (it was illegal until 2010).

When the numbers are reviewed, the worst intersection in Delaware for RLV crashes had an average of 4.75 crashes per year before the camera scheme. That’s one crash every 2.4 months. On the other end of the scale, the lowest “before” locations (2 of them) averaged about 1/3 of a crash per year. This means in 3 years, there was 1 RLV crash. These crashes just are not the epidemic the government and scheme vendors want us to think they are.

What’s not stated in the report is that of the 30 intersections, while the overall RLV crash reduction was 29%, the fact is that at 12 of the 18 locations, there were MORE RLV crashes after use of the scheme than before. This supports my professional experience as a trooper that these crashes will not be significantly affected by use of a camera on a pole. The drivers that run red lights several seconds into the red are either not paying attention or DUI. Additionally, the total and rear-end crashes increased. It is difficult to make an argument for safety under these circumstances.

What did not decrease was the revenue for the scheme vendor. The report details how ATS made anywhere from $2.6 to $3.0 million each year since 2010. ATS made money when cities such as Elsmere and Seaford lost money.

Once again, it is not about safety and all about money. If anyone from the government tells you their camera scheme is not about the money, they are being less than truthful. As with nearly everything political, it is always about the money.

LFN_memberClick on the logo to join and support the Liberty First Network via a monthly donation.

Work to oppose the scheme also must involve money. It can’t be done for free. If you think the work I’ve done on the red light camera issue has been worthwhile, there is now a method in place at the Liberty First Network where you and like-minded people can make a recurring monthly donation starting at $10/month. This issue, as with most political issues, affects millions of Floridians. The money spent by our own government against your rights and freedom on this issue alone is well into the hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.

Earlier this year I had to reduce the time spent on the camera issue due to a lack of funding. David fought Goliath and won, but he still needed income to get to the battle. Please help the liberty lobbying effort by making a recurring donation and passing this along to your friends.

My Argument Against the Article V Convention of States

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Recently I attended a political gathering where constitutional attorney Michael Farris was given an hour to promote his “Convention of States” to amend the US Constitution. Apparently the person that was scheduled to debate him had to cancel, so in lieu of presenting equal time for an opposing view, participants were allowed to ask questions after submitting them. After learning of the cancellation,  I had expressed an interest in debating him, and learned the cutoff to do so was the prior Thursday, as debate rules mandated he had to know who he was debating. I was disappointed to hear an educated man such as Mr. Farris use the terms “crazy” and “idiots” when describing people that may try to offer something at a convention other than what he had in mind. Hypocritically, he asked those asking questions not to “throw rocks” at him when asking them.

This is a divisive topic among those that support limited government, and as such it requires in-depth reading and study. Needless to say lovers of things 140 characters or less will not take the time to look into the issue.

I’ll begin by agreeing that the federal government spends too much, exercises powers not delegated to them, and I support term limits. These are the three key areas Mr. Farris wishes to correct via a Convention of States. On a side note, I initially wrote here that an Article V Convention was not a Constitutional Convention. After doing some more research and re-reading Article V above, I don’t see where there is a difference. The mechanism within the Constitution to change it is Article V, and it requires a convention, so in fact it could be called a Constitutional Convention. There is no mechanism to do away with the entire Constitution within it, so any convention to do anything could be called a Constitutional Convention. At any rate, there are far more pressing concerns here.

Where I disagree is that this method is costly in both money and political effort and certainly offers no assurance of success- and in fact exposes citizens to negative unintended consequences. It’s my opinion that the money and time being spent on this effort could be better used to achieve the desired goals.

Since I didn’t get equal time then and get to ask all the questions (I was limited to two not of my choosing), I’ll take it now and just hit the highlights of my opposition with 7 questions. These come not from some other political source or organization, but instead from my work and experience as both an activist and a lobbyist for liberty issues since 2011.

Question 1: If Congress is not following amendments such as number 10 in things such as the national ID card (REAL ID), then why will they follow a new amendment?

This question was one I was able to ask. In summary, Mr. Farris believes that by writing an amendment that disallows use of the general welfare clause contained in Article 1 Section 8 as a justification this will compel compliance to the amendment. He also favors disallowing the Supreme Court to render some decisions, stated on his website as “We must curtail the power of the Supreme Court to approve federal power grabs by the other branches.” He of course cites the Supreme Court Obamacare decision of it being a tax and as such constitutional while completely ignoring things such as the USA PATRIOT and REAL ID Acts, which greatly affect citizens. Of course the former was passed by “liberals” and the latter two by “conservatives”.

That is advocating undercutting 1 of the 3 stool legs of our original balance of power. The answer to improper court decisions is properly-written laws, not doing away with the court. I have long opposed violating the Constitution for a “good” purpose as the opposition will be able to do so for a “bad” purpose once in power using the same process. As an lawyer, Mr. Farris must realize that in every court decision there are those happy and those unhappy. The fact is for every law, there will usually at some point be a court action involving it.

Mr. Farris believes that if Congress were to simply ignore the new amendment, they would be held accountable:
“No politician could then legitimately claim that they were following the true meaning of the Constitution. The public would know better. And the public would throw the rascals out.”

Anyone that has looked at congressional approval ratings knows they are usually in the single-digit range, while incumbents win re-election over 90% of the time. The “throw them out” mentality just does not work in the real world.

The above argument assumes an amendment was passed at the convention to do what Mr. Farris’ desires. In politics, there is no sure bet on this happening. That brings me to my next question.

Question 2: How do we know what the amendments will be to accomplish the stated goals of limiting power, spending, and term limits?

I’ll call this the “Pelosi factor” in honor of the former speaker’s saying we needed to pass a bill to find out what is in the bill. The Convention of States by its nature cannot have amendments pre-approved. The process involves getting legislation passed in 39 states (2/3 majority) to CALL for a convention, THEN the subject matter can be addressed. After an agreement by the delegates (this is another issue, see below), then the final amendment must be approved (ratified) by 38 state legislatures, or a 3/4 majority.

If we hold a Convention of States and limit it to federal power, spending, and term limits, we can certainly have any number of amendments proposed using those justifications. As a lobbyist that has written legislation, I see all too often that a bill that begins life as doing “A” ends up being amended to get a majority vote and it then no longer does “A” but in fact now does “Z”, which is opposite of “A”. This is pretty much what happens to every red light camera repeal bill.

Here’s an example in simple terms: The Congress is hereby limited to spend no more than 125% of the prior year’s budget. Is this “limited” spending? Yes. Will it result in less than last year? No. Slickly-worded amendments can and do turn the intent of bills around. A convention would fare no differently.

Question 3: The goal is to get agreeable delegates in the convention and then have them vote for favorable amendments. How can you control who gets there?

Mr. Farris did address this on his website:
“States are free to develop their own selection process for choosing their delegates —properly called “commissioners.” Historically, the most common method used was an election by a joint session of both houses of the state legislature.”

If they are to be designated by our state legislature, we need to keep in mind these are the same folks that don’t listen to us on things like red light cameras, where public (non-legislative) votes have gone against them 90% of the time.This leads to a follow-up question.

Question 4: What will prevent the “other” side from stacking the convention with their own delegates?

If you look at any election in the past decade or so, you’ll likely see that it was closely-contested. While some do not like to admit it, we are in fact a house divided in America. There are those such as I that think the solution to problems begins locally with each one of us, and then there are those that think the solution to problems begins with our government providing all sorts of assistance. Many noble efforts have been made to get limited-government people in place in government, but sadly more often than not they fail. There is therefore no guarantee any precinct-level plan will work. One outcome may be a gridlocked convention that has cost us millions of dollars. In the worst case, the subject amendments are legally twisted 180 degrees and then our Constitution is damaged for the several years it would take to mount an operation to correct it.

Question 5: If you have the ability to control the majority of delegates for 38 states, what would happen if instead you utilized this effort and funding to get the same caliber of people into elected office?

The problems noted as to spending, power, and term limits all originate from elected officials. The fact is that local officials such as city and county commissioners love so-called “federal money” (most see it as free money or money owed to them due to money paid to the federal government by citizens) and thereby set into perpetual motion the same spending Mr. Farris seeks to eliminate. A common phrase when asked to not take a grant or spend money is “If we don’t spend it, someone else will.” These are all accomplished politicians, and collectively they contain a great deal of political power. In my experience, it is unlikely they will simply sit on the sidelines while people seeking to reduce the amount of the “federal money” are sent to a convention.

Question 6: What is the real possibility of getting 38 state legislatures to agree on specific language?

I spend a lot of time researching bills. I looked at recent (the past 3 months) calls for a convention of states. I found 41 such bills. Of these, 10 were for limited power, spending, and term limits. There were 15 for a balanced budget amendment. There were 12 for campaign finance reform. Marriage preservation, single subject, repeal the 17th Amendment, and no subject (allowing anything at all) each had 1 bill.

It’s interesting to note a bill in a coupe of “conservative” states of the 40  Mr. Farris is relying upon (South Dakota, where two such bills failed, and New Mexico) to compel delegates to stick to legislative terms either failed or is stagnant. In Florida, the bill places a felony-level penalty on such conduct. That appears to be excessive. What will happen when someone appeals under an 8th Amendment claim of an excessive punishment and it is properly struck down? BTW, the South Dakota law that failed assessed a civil fine and no criminal penalty.

Question 7: What has the cost been so far to do this?

I noted a number of paid staff in the room, several from out of state, when this was taking place. Being well acquainted with the volunteer nature of most grass root efforts, it appeared to me there was a lot of money behind this effort. It has never been disclosed from where this money is originating.

That’s it for the questions. As an observation, Mr. Farris stated a state legislature cannot nullify a federal law, of course again citing Obamacare where a court decision was handed down. For those where no such decision exists, that’s simply not true. I have experience fighting the federal REAL ID law since 2010. In Florida, our legislature gave us the law, and they can certainly nullify it by repealing it. Or the state can simply stop complying with it as was done in Ohio last year. Or like Montana and several other states, they could simply refuse to enact it. We’d be much further ahead in areas such as REAL ID if constitutional lawyers such as Mr. Farris would take the case. Without exception, each and every one I’ve asked has declined to take it on. Usually the reply is they do not have the resources, or it is not their area of specialty.

I’ll close this with an analogy, a way I prefer to relate real life situations. Let’s say there are 50 people in a room. Nearly all agree they are hungry. They need to eat. Can I convince or can 34 of them agree as to where to eat? If we get past that, then can 38 of them agree as to what we will eat? 34 is 2/3 and 38 is 3/4 of 50. Under Article V, 2/3 of the 50 states must agree to call an Article V convention (the restaurant), and then if the convention passes some ideas, 38 states must approve them (the meal). I do not see this happening in modern America. The chance that we end up with a meal poisonous to our palette for liberty is too great to risk via a Convention of States.

How to Rip People Off in Miami Springs and Get Away With It

Miami_Springs_logoMiami Springs’ logo is “At the heart of it all”
I’d say “Don’t steal, the government hates the competition” is more fitting

A recent Miami Herald story told about five people going to the red light camera scheme’s kangaroo court recently. If you read the story, like nearly every one except those posted by WTSP investigative journalist Noah Pransky, you’d think Miami Springs must be a much safer place to drive since the city began using the red light camera scheme.

After all, the story says this:
“When we first started this, there were about 1,000 violators per month,” said PIO Sgt. Jimmy Deal. “But we’ve seen a steady decline in the numbers. That proves the system works.”

What the story does not say is what this same Sgt. Jimmy Deal told the state when he submitted the city’s required crash data (click for Excel spreadsheet for all 2013 data, Miami Springs is line 29) for the state’s 2013 camera scheme report. Sgt. Deal supplied the following information about crashes AFTER use of the camera scheme (the first set of dates & numbers in each category are how many crashes were before use of the scheme, and the second set are after scheme use):
Angle crashes, increase: 41% – 7/1/11 – 6/30/12 = 17, 7/1/12 – 6/30/13 = 24
Rear end crashes, no change: 0% – 7/1/11 – 6/30/12 = 11, 7/1/12 – 6/30/13 = 11
Total crashes, increased: 25% – 7/1/11 – 6/30/12 = 28, 7/1/12 – 6/30/13 = 35

Needless to say, there is no mention of any crash data in the kangaroo court story.

A news search turned up another quote from Sgt. Deal, this one from a July 30, 2013 Miami Herald story:
…Miami Springs police sergeant Jimmy Deal, who heads the city’s red-light enforcement program: “These cameras have prevented a lot of crashes.”

Chalk up another bold lie by a camera scheme user. As of July 30, 2013, he knew or should have known the actual numbers were just the opposite. Also note the city’s financial problems in the July 2013 story. A “quick fix” via the camera scheme is just what the big spenders ordered.

 

The system does indeed work, but not for safety. In the story’s prior paragraph, you can see how well it works:
Since becoming operational in January 2012, the red light cameras have become a successful revenue generator for the city. So far this year, monthly citations have ranged from 600 – 700.

I noted that either Sgt. Deal overlapped the “before” dates of January-June 2012, or the reporter got the start date wrong.

What about the five that dared to contest their tickets in kangaroo court?

  • An elderly grandmother that could not understand what was going on was ticketed for making a turn at 16 MPH where the city set a limit of 15 MPH (and since cameras are not lawful speed measuring devices under Florida law, this should be inadmissible- but in kangaroo court rules that cost the city money don’t apply). She was fined $158 + $250 in “costs”, for a total of $408.
  • A second woman dared to contest her ticket and was also fined $408.
  • After that, the next two got the message and paid the normal extortion, oops, fine of $208- a surcharge of $50 was added to the $158 for their gall of contesting the ticket.
  • The final vehicle owner lucked out by being “clocked” at only 14 MPH and had his ticket dismissed. Of course, isn’t there “officer review” of “violations” so that a 14 MPH ticket should never have been issued?
Camera scheme users will not widely publicize the actual numbers of crashes at their camera scheme intersections. Just as with Clearwater, the only city to publish actual numbers in an October 3, 2013 Clearwater Beacon news story, the numbers went up after scheme use. In Clearwater, there were 3 red light violation (RLV) crashes prior to scheme use, and 6 after. Twice as many. Total crashes jumped from 40 to 132. Yet despite this damning for safety data, that city’s leaders voted to continue to use the camera scheme.

As a lobbyist, I’ve seen at the state level we have the best government money can buy for the camera scheme. This war is being won at the local level using ammunition such as the data Miami Springs is hiding. It must be exposed to the voters there and these corrupt local officials removed.

The Needless Deaths of Mark Wandall and Many Others

SR70_Tara_crashRecently Melissa Wandall appeared before a House committee and retold the tragic death of her husband Mark, who died after the vehicle in which he was a passenger was struck by a driver that ran a light that had been red for several seconds. This took place in 2004 in Manatee County at SR 70 & Tara Bv. The photo above is the actual traffic crash report diagram. NCSR_MW_president032514

Mrs. Wandall began a crusade against red light violations, and ultimately became involved with American Traffic Solutions (ATS), a vendor of red light cameras (she is now the president of the ATS front group the National Coalition for Safer Roads). As evidenced by her recent testimony, Mrs. Wandall became convinced the only way to reduce these types of crashes was via automated (and for-profit) law enforcement using cameras.

It’s worth noting here that according to DOT crash data, the intersection of SR 70 & Tara had a total of 6 red light violation crashes from 2005-2011. On the other side of I-75, the intersection of SR 70 & Braden Run had 15- nearly 3 times as many. A camera was placed at SR 70 & Tara in 2013, yet not at SR 70 & Braden Run. Why? Could it be that there is more traffic at Tara and much less at Braden Run? More traffic = more “violations”, and more “violations” = more money. This is yet another downside to turning law enforcement into a for-profit scheme.

While discussing the red light camera scheme with St. Petersburg activist Matt Florell, he commented after reading the crash report that if there had been just 1 second more of  the yellow or all-red cycles (the amount of time lights are red in all directions), this crash would have been prevented. Using my skills as a former traffic homicide investigator, I’d like to analyze this and see if it is correct. If the math part bores you, please skip to the 3 scenarios below.

The crash report shows vehicle 1, the red light violator, as doing 50 MPH while vehicle 2, the one containing Mr. Wandall, is vehicle 2 and doing 20 MPH. A third vehicle was to the left of vehicle 2 and also turning left. Since it was delayed longer than vehicle 2, it would not have been involved in any collision scenario noted herein.

At 50 MPH, a vehicle is traveling about 73 feet per second (FPS). At 20 MPH, a vehicle is traveling about 29 FPS. While vehicle 1’s speed was constant, vehicle 2 was accelerating, so two different formulas must be used here. For vehicle 1, we can simply add or subtract 73 feet for every second of travel. For vehicle 2, we can determine approximately how long the light had been red prior to impact based upon it’s time to accelerate to 20 MPH (you can duplicate this by timing your next left turn or how long it takes to go about 80 feet).

Presuming 11 foot wide lanes and a 3 foot wide bike lane, the diagram shows the collision between vehicles 1 and 2 was about 25 feet into the intersection. Vehicle 2 traveled about 80 feet prior to impact.

Using a math formula to determine how long it takes to go from 0 to 20 MPH in 80 feet, I arrived at a time of about 2.2 seconds.

What this means is that after the light turned green, the average amount of time for vehicle 2 to get into the path of vehicle 1 was about 2.2 seconds. Of course, there is a reaction time involved as well. Since the driver of vehicle 2 was listed as having a blood alcohol level of .041 (under the legal limit of prima facie impairment of .08 presuming this was an accurate level for the time of the crash, alcohol metabolizes over time and if the sample was taken several hours later the driver’s content could have been higher at the time of the crash), his reaction time may have been somewhat slower than the average of 3/4 of a second (or .75 second). If his reaction time was average and there was no all-red delay, then it can be proved that vehicle 1 ran the read light about 3 seconds after it turned red. Of course, if there was at the time an all-red period of 1 second, then the SR 70 light was red for at least 4 seconds. For the sake of this exercise, we’ll use 3 seconds into the red light as the time of the collision. Using 4 seconds would not alter the end result.

Now we know about how long the light had been red prior to the collision, we can perform some more math.

Scenario 1: A 1-second longer yellow light
Since vehicle 1 was doing 50 MPH or 73 FPS, we can place it at 219 feet prior to the point of collision (73 x 3.0) when the light cycled from yellow to red. had the yellow light been 1 second longer, then vehicle 1 would have been 146 feet prior to the point of collision at the yellow/red change. More importantly, by the time vehicle 2 was at the point of collision, vehicle 1 was now 73 feet beyond the point of collision. There would not have been a collision and Mr. Wandall would have survived.

Scenario 2: A 1-second all-red time
Since vehicle 1 was doing 50 MPH or 73 FPS, we can again place it at 219 feet prior to the point of collision (73 x 3.0) when the light cycled from yellow to red. Had the all-red light been 1 second longer, then vehicle 2 would have been delayed for another second. This would have the same effect as above, in that vehicle 1 using the extra second travels another 73 feet beyond the point of collision. There would not have been a collision and Mr. Wandall would have survived.

Scenario 3: A combination of the above
Since vehicle 1 was doing 50 MPH or 73 FPS, we can again place it at 219 feet prior to the point of collision (73 x 3.0) when the light cycled from yellow to red. Had both the yellow time and the all-red time been 1 second longer, then vehicle 2 would have been delayed for another 2 seconds. Vehicle 1 using the extra 2 seconds travels another 146 feet beyond the point of collision. There would not have been a collision and Mr. Wandall would have survived.

Mrs. Wandall remains insistent that the camera scheme saves lives, but factual red light violation crash data fails to support her claim. I bear her no ill will. I reserve that for the camera scheme vendors making millions from her personal tragedy using a smokescreen of safety. Using math, I’ve just proved that my friend Matt was correct and that proper yellow AND all-red light timing really saves lives. It does so without anyone being wrongly accused and then having to prove their innocence. Of course it does so without the millions in revenue for camera scheme vendors, users, and the state, so the political opposition is tremendous.

There are real-world examples of this concept in Florida and next door in Georgia. After I testified about the use of the camera scheme in Collier County, Florida in 2013, I learned they had dropped the scheme and instead began to use longer yellow and all-red timing. The entire State of Georgia mandated 1 second longer yellows in 2008. We have not read about massive increases in fatal/injury red light violation crashes in either location. To the contrary, in Georgia, the NHTSA reported the following declines for traffic fatalities since 2008 (NHTSA does not track red light violation crashes- which should be a clue as to how prevalent they are- here in Florida state records show they are about 3~4% of all crashes):

2008: 1,495
2009: 1,292
2010: 1,247
2011: 1,226
2012: 1,192

NHTSA_GA08-12

As I’ve observed many times, the drivers that fail to slow for red lights are either inattentive or impaired. No camera on a pole will magically awaken them or make them sober. No delay of a few seconds will prevent the crash caused by the DUI driver that runs a light 2 minutes into the red, but this delay would save many lives such as the crash involving Mr. Wandall. There is no perfect system, although the technology exists to use a prediction plan for a vehicle not slowing and to hold the all-red based upon this. I think most people including myself would approve of the accurate (several camera systems such as the one in Palm Coast have an error activation rate of close to or over 90%) use of a system such as this for safety and not enforcement. In my opinion and experience, this will not come to be due to financial and political reasons.

Just The Facts

Joe_FridayHere is Sgt. Joe Friday again. Joe worked when lawmen wanted just the facts, not just the dollars. Contrast Joe’s famous line (that he apparently never said in so many words) with that of another former lawman at the end of this posting. Click the links for the documentation of my allegations and decide for yourself.

Yesterday, automated for-profit device vendor ATS via their front group the National Coalition for Safe Roads (which is really more accurately described as Need Cash for Selfish Reasons) sent out a news release mentioned in this news story that talked of myths and facts for automated for-profit law enforcement. Seeing as how I have some experience and knowledge on the subject, I thought I’d weigh in with some facts based on my law enforcement, research, and legislative experience.

The below facts are from my 25 years of Florida police experience, to include time spent as a trooper, traffic homicide investigator, and line supervisor as well as personal research using government and published data, and my experience opposing the devices in the Florida legislature.

FACT:
The NCSR is a front group for the for-profit device vendor ATS. All references herein to ATS apply to their front group NCSR.

FACT:
The recent Tampa Bay story is not mentioned in the ATS response, one from some time ago in Orlando is. The reporter in Tampa, Noah Pransky, found shortened times to be due to DOT guidelines. That is not addressed in the ATS response.

Speaking of the DOT:
FACT:
In several cities where I pulled state DOT traffic crash data, there was no significant reduction in actual red light violation (RLV, not “related”) crashes- these are crashes caused by red light running. Some intersections saw a slight decrease, some saw a slight increase, and some stayed the same. The automated for-profit devices are installed to reduce red light running. They are not installed to reduce rear end or failure to yield (angle or “T-bone”) crashes. Judging their effectiveness using rear end and angle crashes is an invalid means. The devices are ineffective for safety. Pay attention, you’ll see this again.

FACT:
In the 2012 State undocumented survey of local governments using automated for-profit enforcement, between 20 and 30 percent of them failed to furnish any crash data at all, even though the same device law that generates revenue for them requires them to do so. What are these local governments hiding? Could it be that the devices are ineffective for safety?

FACT:
In this same undocumented survey, the RLV crashes were not mentioned. What is being hidden? Could it be that the devices are ineffective for safety?

FACT:
There continue to be new videos of RLV crashes posted by ATS on YouTube at intersections- captured by the very devices placed there to prevent this type of crash. The devices are ineffective for safety.

FACT:
No city in Florida using automated for-profit law enforcement will tell the public how many RLV crashes they had at device intersections for equal periods of time before and after the use of automated for-profit enforcement. Many will tell how many dollars they are making or provide crash numbers such as “a lot” (Longwood Police Chief Troy Hickson, May 9, 2013 WFTV).

Speaking of revenue:
FACT:
In a May 10, 2013 news story, WEAR-TV documented that as of 2011 25 cities in Florida were using automated for-profit law enforcement, which raised $19 million in revenue to the state. As of 2013, the numbers were 70+ cities and $84 million to the state. The number of cities increased by 280%. The revenue increased by 442%. If the devices were effective, the revenue as a percentage would have remained the same as the city/user growth or been reduced. The devices are ineffective for safety.

The above information was translated into graphs for an easier means of visualizing the data. The first graph gives the actual numbers, while the second shows how much revenue should have come in if the devices were effective as compared to what actually came in.

WEAR-TV_graph_1

WEAR-TV_graph_2

FACT:
According to state campaign finance records, ATS contributed over $440,000 (click for Excel spreadsheet summary) to Florida politicians and political groups from 2008-2012.

FACT:
Automated for-profit law enforcement is a bad idea, and it breeds corruption. The trail begins at city hall and goes to Tallahassee.
“In the future, there is significant revenue to be generated by this venture”- Former Gulf Breeze, FL Police Chief Peter Paulding, who now makes $2,000/month in retirement thanks to an automated for-profit device program he used his official position to implement.

A Threat to National Security or Public Safety

Homeland_InsecurityThe title for this posting was clipped from a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) page regarding deferred action letters. I’ve written about them on my companion REAL ID site after the Florida Legislature went into overdrive to give driver licenses to illegal aliens while providing no relief to citizens. The letters are basically the DHS saying we won’t prosecute you if you entered the country illegally if you meet certain criteria. The criteria include (emphasis added):

  1. Have come to the United States under the age of sixteen;
  2. Have continuously resided in the United States for a least five years preceding the date of this memorandum and are present in the United States on the date of this memorandum:
  3. Are currently in school, have graduated from high school, have obtained a general education development certificate, or are honorably discharged veterans of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States;
  4. Have not been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense, multiple misdemeanor offenses, or otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety;
  5. Are not above the age of thirty.

As the saying goes, unless you just dropped by from another planet, you’re probably aware of the bombings in Boston. Two suspects were identified. What I’m doing here today is using the above DHS language and applying it to the two Boston suspects to see how effective Deferred Action will be- in other words, who might it allow in?

According to the Wall Street Journal article, the family moved (legally) to the US 10 years ago in 2003. For this exercise, we’ll presume they entered illegally and remained. The two suspects were age 19 and 26, had graduated high school, and had no criminal records. Let’s apply the Deferred Action checklist against them- I’ll note after each category if the 19 and the 26 year old would qualify:

  1. Have come to the United States under the age of sixteen; YES and MAYBE (depending on the birth month)
  2. Have continuously resided in the United States for a least five years preceding the date of this memorandum and are present in the United States on the date of this memorandum; YES for both
  3. Are currently in school, have graduated from high school, have obtained a general education development certificate, or are honorably discharged veterans of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States; YES for both
  4. Have not been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense, multiple misdemeanor offenses, or otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety; YES for both
  5. Are not above the age of thirty. YES for both

So there is yet another FAILED solution via the federal government, but one just as with REAL ID that our Florida legislators rushed to embrace. How many people actually think someone that enters the US before age 16 cannot become a risk to national security or public safety before age 30? If you do or did, the two fellows in Boston are dead and living proof that it’s just wishful thinking. The fact is, these two were here legally. Why expand the pool of potential threats by allowing those that came here illegally a free pass?

The solution: We need to keep the federal government OUT of state laws. This was the premise back in 1787 for the 10th Amendment, which has been assaulted by Democrats and Republicans alike. What this means for Florida is repeal of REAL ID at the state level for citizens- while keeping non-citizens under current standards. It also means NO acceptance of deferred action letters. This was just a dumb idea, or as one of my favorite politicians, former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer said of REAL ID, a “harebrained scheme”.

You can help this effort by visiting the Liberty First Network and donating to help us be present in the legislature and influence these laws.

How to Lie with Statistics- Delaware Style

Lies_statsThis morning in my email alerts, I found the following news story out of Delaware.

Route 1 cameras reduce red-light running; accidents down slightly

Here’s the part of the story that deals with red light violation traffic (RLV) crashes- something I was initially surprised to see reported in actual numbers, but after reading the details it came as no surprise.

Traffic cameras at two Route 1 intersections appear to have reduced accidents, and transportation officials say fewer drivers run red lights.

“The cameras located at Route 1/Old Landing Road and Route 1/Munchy Branch Road have done what we had expected; they have changed driver behavior and thereby reduced crashes – and potentially saved lives,” said Dawn Hopkins, intergovernmental policy advisor for DelDOT.

The Delaware Department of Transportation installed cameras in 2010 after using five years of data to determine the two intersections were candidates for the Electronic Red Light Safety Program, Hopkins said. In the five years from 2002 to 2007, there were four crashes a year at the Munchy Branch intersection and about two crashes a year at Old Landing Road.

At Old Landing Road, only one crash a year occurred from 2007 to 2010, but from 2010 to 2012, the average rose to more than one a year.

At Munchy Branch Road, after cameras were installed there has been an average of  two accidents a year.

Hopkins said there is a normal ebb and flow of crashes throughout the state, with fewer accidents during periods of recession because people drive less. However, the overall trends indicate fewer crashes have resulted from running red lights when compared to the initial data.

Here is my analysis of this story, using only the text of the story.

Unequal time periods and omitted data
Note the terms “2002 to 2007″ for pre-device and 2010 to 2012″ for post-device. Since “to” not “through” was used, this excludes the last year listed, so for example, 2010 to 2012 includes 2010 and 2011, but not 2012. This means there were a total of eight years of data available pre-device (2002 THROUGH 2009), but only 2002 THROUGH 2006 was used. What happened in 2007, 2008, and 2009? To find out, keep reading.

For nearly equal time periods, RLV crashes increased- but how much?
In one section, for the Old Landing intersection, three years pre-device (2007 THROUGH 2009) is used, and two years post-device (2010 and 2011) is used. What happened when we included the missing 2007, 2008, and 209 data? RLV crashes increased! They were an average of one/year pre-device, but post-device the average was “more than one a year”. Two is more than one, as is ten. What is the number?

The recession
What is another factor here in omitting post 2006 data? The recession that began in this time frame. The story accurately noted in a recension people drive less. What ends up is the state is using a time when people did more driving (2002 through 2006) and compared it to a period when they did less driving (2010 and 2011).

Contrast this state study with the 2012 Florida red light camera study. As I noted in my analysis, no red light violation crashes were listed, no numerical crash data was listed, and 20 to 30% of the agencies required by law to submit crash data failed to do so. Yet this “analysis” is quoted far and wide by the media, which just as the Delaware paper above never questioned anything about it.

The bottom line- revenue
The last line of the story prior to it talking about the new vendor was this:
That said, the potential revenue is significant – nearly $1 million in tickets issued so far through 2012.

Unlike crashes, revenue is rarely misreported.

The fact is once government becomes involved in a for-profit scheme using a core function such as law enforcement, we cannot trust anything the government says about this function. I’ll paraphrase Mr. Reagan and say do NOT trust, and most certainly verify- if you can find the data.

The solution here is at least threefold-

1. The most difficult thing is educating the public on the issue, although most people can see these devices for what they are.This is where the support (both in calls, dollars, and votes) for the following steps must come from.

2. We must lobby for and pass laws such as the Motorist Rights Act and proper yellow light timing, if not an outright ban on the devices- but the latter is far more difficult to do as we’ve seen here.

3. We must oust politicians that vote against our rights. This includes local officials that vote to use automated for-profit enforcement and those at the state level that vote to protect or extend it.

NOT The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

USG_will_screw_u

Last year after my tax return could not be filed due to an IRS claim (never proven) of ID theft, it took 7 months for my refund to arrive, and this only happened when I joined a class action suit to get my money. This is a violation of the 5th Amendment’s due process clause for deprivation of property, but of course I do not have an extra $50,000 laying around to file suit. As I’ve noted here, due to their error, I earned interest on the money they owed me, so I was taxed on the interest this year.

I have no doubt I’ve made the IRS radar, as I wrote to the commissioner last year offering to work for half-pay and help them clear these alleged ID theft cases. That idea was shot down in less than 7 months.

This year I was smarter and filed earlier, nearly 2 months ago in February. No ID theft claim thus far… but also no refund. When I go to the IRS site, it says this:

Your tax return is still being processed.

A refund date will be provided when available.

Any bets on if I get audited from now until death or as a lesser of two evils I have to wait another 3-4-5 months for the refund?
Until we do away with the IRS and are taxed only on gain and not income, things like this will continue to take place. From an April 3, 2012 blog post:
I like to offer solutions- and for taxes have already done so, but it is worth repeating. It’s a process of two things that are linked to each other: Spending and taxes. Unless we reduce spending to constitutional levels, all the tax reform/flat/fair taxes will not matter. Once we have spending in check, then we need to assess how we tax ourselves. While I really oppose income taxes, until we can do away with them entirely, the concept I support is that of being taxed on gains- not income. If you make $3,000 a month and it costs you $2,000 just to live (housing, food, power, phone, etc.) so you can go to work to make income, then you should not be taxed on any part of the $2,000. It’s income, but it’s really not since it goes out right away and you can’t spend it on something else. If you didn’t spend it, you wouldn’t be able to work. Seems simple, so it will never fly with the IRS.

Law Enforcement’s Discretion Factor

LE_discretion

I read today a story of a Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) Trooper being fired after a traffic stop involving a state legislator. The story is located on several news pages, this one from Jacksonville was fairly in-depth and contained the internal investigative report. I’ve used Sheriff Bufford T. Justice here before for a failure to communicate, but this situation is a failure to use common sense. In a nutshell, the trooper is alleged to have stopped the legislator for 87 MPH in a 70 zone, and instead of writing him a $250 speeding ticket, he wrote a speed warning and a $10 no proof of insurance ticket. The legislator wrote to the FHP and complained.

If you’ve read my blog for a couple of years, you’ll know speeding legislators (Drive as I Legislate, not as I Drive and The Need for Legislative Speed) are something I’ve written about in the past. What I’m writing about today is discretion in law enforcement- and I’ll offer up a reminder this is something no automated for-profit device will ever have. More on that later.

You’ll find the word discretion in the first sentence of the first “policy” paragraph of the FHP policy manual for traffic stops (17.21, click for PDF). It says:
The greatest amount of discretion afforded to members of the Florida Highway Patrol is
in conducting traffic stops. Members are routinely afforded discretion to determine which
vehicles to stop and what type of enforcement action to take. Members are given guidance in taking enforcement action in FHP Policy 17.06. Also, statutory requirements regulate the types of action members may take for certain violations.

Here’s the first part of the referenced 17.06:
17.06.03 POLICY
It is the policy of the Florida Highway Patrol to allow its members appropriate latitude in determining types of enforcement action to be taken. Traffic law enforcement is a primary responsibility of the Florida Highway Patrol. Members should take the enforcement action that they deem necessary to ensure the safety of the motoring public, reduce the number and severity of traffic crashes and reduce the number of criminal acts committed on the highways of this state.

If you make it to subsections 3 and 8 of 17.06.06, you’ll see what the trooper did is actually allowed by policy:
3. Speed and Hazardous Moving Violations
a. A UTC or Written Warning may be issued.
8. Other non-hazardous violations will be enforced as deemed appropriate by the member.

Troopers, like all other officers, are human beings- though some may disagree. I’ll not blow sunshine and say all are faultless- having worked internal investigations I know firsthand that is not the case. But in the specific case, the trooper’s intent was to give the legislator a break. If you read the internal investigation, you’ll see this trooper did a similar thing four days earlier for a non-legislator he stopped, and also the same day for another legislator (looks like I’m not the only one that sees our politicians speeding on I-10). In my time, I had done a similar thing as most officers have- you don’t see the need to lay an expensive ticket on someone, so you reduce the speed to a slower one you observed or cited the driver for a less-costly non-moving ticket.

That’s where discretion comes in. Prosecutors do it on a regular basis. I recall working a traffic homicide case and finding out a plea was being made to a lesser charge. I asked the prosecutor how that worked, as the person was innocent of that charge, but guilty of what I had arrested them for. The prosecutor said it was their discretion to do this as part of a plea. In that case, it kept their conviction rate up. Convictions to the State Attorney are like tickets are to the FHP. If you don’t get them, the public thinks you are not doing your job, or not doing it properly.

I’ll use one of my least-favorite examples, the automated for-profit law enforcement device. I’ll use an example of a driver following a semi-trailer at a reasonable distance (not surprisingly, this involves another legislator). As both vehicles approach the intersection, the light turns yellow. Even though his vehicle is a safe distance behind the trailer, due to its height the driver cannot see the light until he is on top of the intersection, and it’s too late to stop. An officer witnessing this would realize what happened and also realize no one was endangered by the car entering the intersection 1~2/10 of a second after the yellow/red cycle. Discretion means no action taken, or perhaps a warning. I have a post on this site with a photo showing a motorcycle officer at an intersection that did not ticket a driver, yet the automated device did so.

Not so with an automated for-profit device. A ticket will be in the mail.

Now let’s use this same scenario with our first legislator, I’ll name him Dont U. Knowwhoiam. A trooper clocks his vehicle at 87 MPH and stops him. For whatever reason, the trooper decides to issue a ticket that is $240 less than the violation indicated. I’d like to think 99.9% of the motoring public would be thankful and be on their way. Not so with Rep. Dont U. Knowwhoiam. He takes the time to complain that in effect he should have been issued a speeding ticket, not a lower-cost proof of insurance ticket (after reading the story and the investigation, I agree, he’s not worthy of any discretion).

The “ideal” scenario here is apparently to dot the i and cross the t, and just issue the ticket, and I’ll guarantee you that is what will happen to other legislators stopped on I-10. It’s easier said than done with some people, though. Here is why:

How about when the person speeding is an off-duty police officer whose son was just killed? It is interesting to note the very different position taken by the department on that one. A few years back in June 2006, FHP received a reckless driver call on US 1 in the Keys (the only way by car in or out). A trooper clocked the car at some really high speed- as I recall it was like 91 MPH. The trooper learned the driver was a Miami police Lieutenant, and his son had been seriously injured in a crash (unbeknownst to both his son had already died). The trooper followed policy and issued a ticket when he could not confirm an emergency existed (technically the off-duty Lieutenant was not authorized to respond in that manner). That trooper, similar to this one, was investigated by the department and apparently voided the ticket. Here’s a quote from then-Lt. Col. Rick Gregory:
Said Lt. Col Gregory: “It is hard to put a policy in place to describe common sense, but we want to make sure every trooper understands that they have discretion and there is a need for sensitivity.”

A more recent case in Miami involved a Miami officer doing over 100 MPH on the turnpike and being stopped and ticketed by a trooper. There has been a lot of fallout over that one.

In my case, about 25 years ago I had the misfortune to stop a State Attorney Office (SAO) investigator late one evening for an expired tag. The driver had no ID, so he was cited for failing to carry his license and an expired tag- like the insurance ticket, both were dismissible by showing proof to the court. I was put through the wringer on that one, to include a literal wake up call from the district Captain early the next morning after midnight shift (11P-7A) asking if I was trying to start a war. I was later deposed by the SAO about the stop, and they sent a demand for FHP directives ordering surveillance of SAO staff the same day as the stop. There were none, I was just on patrol. Another time, I’ll tell you about the nurse I arrested in 1989.

OK, but what about knowingly issuing a ticket the trooper knew was false? the trooper knew Dont U. Knowwhoiam had proof of insurance, didn’t he, although he didn’t ask for it? Let’s look at the intent. Had the trooper issued an invalid ticket for $250 instead of a $10 one, then that would be wrong- although great for raising revenue- just read some of my other posts here about automated for-profit devices. The intent was to give the motorist a break, not line the pockets of the government.

The bottom line is the punishment does not fit the “crime”. There were discipline alternatives when I worked that included counseling, reprimands, and suspensions. For a first offense short of criminal activity, one of these appears to be a much better fit than does termination.

I’ll touch on something not mentioned in the story. The intent was also to write a ticket for statistical purposes- tickets, warnings, and faulty equipment notices are called “contacts” and while by Florida law there can be no quota, they were certainly used to assess performance when I worked. I suspect this is still the case, and this can place pressure on troopers to write tickets. At one point there was a low-average-high range for each category. Troopers know they are evaluated on performance, so they must turn in contact activity to demonstrate they’ve been working. The thing is, Madison County, where this situation took place, is not Miami. Having lived in both areas and worked in Miami, I can say that there are far fewer traffic violations in Madison than Miami. A lot fewer crashes also.

I’ve predicted the trooper will get his job back, along with back pay and interest, since the punishment was too extreme. He’s already filed suit. Who has lost here? Besides the trooper, the taxpayers of Florida, once again. This was an overreaction by the legislator, compounded by an overreaction by the department.

Truth, Justice, and the American Way

Superman_flagMost people can remember this fellow… and what the flag behind him represents

This title came to mind after reading a news story about how Quincy, Florida was considering using automated for-profit red light enforcement. Haven’t heard of Quincy? You’re not alone. This small north Florida town of about 8,000 is outside of Tallahassee. It serves as an excellent example of what is wrong in America today, since between 2009 and 2011, my DOT crash data shows there were a total of 2 red light violation crashes there. The two were in 2009. There were none in 2010 or 2011.

Let’s look at the three things in the title and apply them to our current and proposed Florida laws:

Truth

Will the politicians be truthful and tell the people that there have been no red light violation crashes in recent years? Not in my experience. Instead, they’ll list how many “violations” were recorded by the for-profit company (to include right turns), or infer every side-impact crash was caused by a red light violation- of course without producing any actual numbers. They may get a police supervisor to claim red light violations cause most of their crashes at intersections, again, without any facts to support the claim.

Each of these tactics has been used by one level/agency of Florida or local government regarding automated for-profit law enforcement.

Then there are the vendors. ATS vice-president Bill Kroske was less than truthful when he impersonated local residents to drum up support for his company’s products. Redflex tried to cover up outright bribery in Chicago and it appears the same tactic was used in other cities.

Justice

This one is easy for the local politicians. The law is already in place to ensure there will be no justice, and to steer vehicle owners into paying the fine. This is done by preventing them from getting a court hearing from the mailed ticket, reducing the fine about $100, keeping points off the record, making the owner guilty until they prove their innocence, and of course not having anyone in court to verify the integrity of the evidence.

The American Way

There is a lot of latitude on this one, seeing as how for-profit companies and government interests have tried to redefine it. However, we still have a number of people that recognize something as un-American, though they may not choose to use that exact phrase. The prior two areas, notably justice, combine to show us that automated for-profit law enforcement is un-American. We are indeed a capitalist society, but in this case there is an easily identifiable difference between greed and capitalism.

Will Quincy adopt automated for-profit law enforcement? I have no doubt they will. We’ll also likely hear soon how bad a problem they have with people passing a stopped school bus, again even though there have been no crashes.

This is why it is important to restore the rights of motorists, which HB 1061 will do. Senate Bill 1342 did so until last week when Sen. Jeff Clemens (D-ATS) gutted the bill in the interest of local governments and for-profit companies.

Sen. Jeff Clemens gutted the Motorist Rights bill on 3/21/13 via an amendment.
Call him at 850-487-5027 and let him know his actions are not appreciated.