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LA Police Commission: Take down red-light cameras

Commission argues cameras increase revenue, but unfairly target the public for minor infractions

By PoliceOne Staff

LOS ANGELES — In a few weeks, the city of Los Angeles might be removing the red light cameras that silently patrol the city’s busy intersections, snapping photos of vehicles whose drivers violate traffic laws.

The Los Angeles Police Commission has unanimously voted to remove the camera system, which was installed by a privately-held Arizona company that entered a contract with the city that's set to expire soon.

A future meeting of the Los Angeles City Council will reportedly address the concerns of the Commission, which argues that red-light camera systems increase revenue, but unfairly target the public for minor infractions.

Some proponents of red light cameras cite studies on traffic safety, such as The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety findings that predicted the devices would have saved 815 lives in 99 U.S. cities during the four-year period from 2004 to 2008.

Five individuals make up Los Angeles’ Commission:

• President John Mack, former president of the Los Angeles Urban League
• Vice President Alan J. Skobin, Vice President and General Counsel of Galpin Motors
• Commissioner Richard E. Drooyan, partner in the law firm of Munger, Tolles and Olsen
• Commissioner Robert M. Saltzman, Associate Dean at USC Law School
• Commissioner Debra Wong Yang, partner in Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher

Opposition to the red-light cameras is not limited to the Police Commission. During a recent meeting of the Los Angeles City Council seven Council members (of the 12 present at the sessions) voted to end the program. In opposing the motion to continue the red-light camera program, Councilman Bill Rosendahl reportedly claimed the program cost the city $2.6 million a year. 

Councilman Paul Krekorian argued that “Every cent we spend on this is a cent we’re not spending on something else.”

“Opponents of the cameras often argue that they are really just revenue engines for struggling cities and towns, silently dinging motorists for mostly minor infractions,” said the MSNBC article. Reconciling that argument with the stated opposition to red-light cameras by those City Council members — who have to contend with revenue streams drying up all on their own — is difficult.

Currently, the cameras record cars running red lights at 32 intersections in Los Angeles, and registered owners of vehicles that are nabbed receive $446 tickets, according to MSNBC.com.

In Los Angeles, judges often do not enforce tickets issued from red light cameras.

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