Irate Citizen Fined

March 27, 2009

All Posts, News

Travis Munroe Townsend, 26, (pictured above) the good citizen who used a pick axe to protest the awarding of police powers to robots in Arizona, was fined $3,500 and sentenced to a year of probation earlier this month.

On December 3rd of last year an Arizona motorcycle cop lurking under the 59th Avenue overpass of the 101 Loop in Glendale heard loud “banging noises.” After he roused himself to investigate, the cop “observed a male Caucasian” swinging a “large pick axe” and striking the “metal and glass housing” of a speed enforcement camera.

It was only Travis Townsend, an obviously kind and good citizen: Because even though he had a perfectly good pick axe in his hands at the time, Townsend still allowed the cop to arrest him and take him Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s toilet of a jail. The speeding ticket robot was not damaged.

Budget Gimmick

Townsend was actually imitating a similar attack on a speeding ticket camera that had taken place in the Czech Republic the month before. The cameras began to appear on highways in and around Phoenix in November, 2008 and many good citizens became upset. Republican state Representative Sam Crump has subsequently introduced a bill to get rid of the cameras. He calls them “budget gimmick” introduced “in the dead of night.

Which is as good a way as any to put it. You might also say that traffic enforcement “systems” are a racket run by a couple of soulless and demonic corporations named American Traffic Solutions, Inc. and Redflex Holdings, Ltd. The gutless Arizona legislature authorized the cameras last year because they thought “the systems” would be a good way to extort an extra $90 million dollars each year out of residents and tourists. Under the usual terms of these back room deals, the owners of the cameras, either American Traffic Solutions or Redflex, splits all the revenue half and half with the government.

More Tickets More Money

Last month a scholarly periodical called the Journal of Law and Economics stated unequivocally that, “governments use traffic tickets as a means of generating revenue.” Well, duh-uh. The authors of the article were astute enough to notice that when local politicians want more money they tell local cops to write more tickets. Hence the introduction of robotic speed enforcement in Phoenix. It seems obvious because it is obvious.

Corrupt cops and lying politicians keep insisting that ticket issuing robots make everyone safer but that is not what the companies that make these things tell their shareholders. Redflex, for example, bragged in the corporate report it issued last month that that company expects pre-tax profits to grow by at least 40 percent a year for the foreseeable future.

Forty percent a year. During the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

And, even if you do not now live in a state with ticket issuing robots you should still care because the odds are good that you soon will. Redflex now has more than 1400 traffic enforcement cameras installed in the United States and the company expects to have 1709 installed by June. In addition to Arizona, the company sees Indiana, Minnesota, Florida and New Mexico as “emergent markets.”


Right now, Redflex is trying to buy politicians in Indiana. Or as the company puts it, “Redflex has taken an active role in educating law makers on the safety benefits of automated enforcement.” The report was vague about how much of this “education” is being accomplished by call girls bearing gifts of scotch, lobster and cash.

Oh, maybe that is an unfair image to put in your head. Who knows. Indiana might be the state with the honest politicians. What do you think are the odds? Or are you cynical enough to think that big bucks equals big corruption?

The bill Redflex is trying to “educate” law makers about is Indiana House Bill 1589. So, in case you live in Indiana and you have heard of HB 1589 but you were not sure what it was intended to accomplish, now you know. It is the new law that will allow Redflex to put its big, sticky hand in your pockets.

But Wait! There’s More!

And bikers everywhere, but especially in New York City, might also be particularly interested to know that Redflex is about to start selling a new product to cash strapped cities and states. Redflex’s “New Noise Enforcement Camera System” has completed testing in New Zealand and is on the way. So even if you never speed or make a right turn on red after a rolling stop, if your motorcycle exhaust is louder than a dial tone, you can expect to get a ticket from a robot real soon, too.

What a brave new world our politicians have made. Pick axe, anyone?

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