As far-fetched as airport security has become, the worst excess of the post-modern police state is still probably robotic traffic law enforcement. Of course, alien overlord Janet Napolitano is a leading proponent of both. There seems to be nothing about freedom that Napolitano and her space alien friends do not hate.
Napolitano is the United States Secretary of Homeland Security who recently proclaimed that airline passengers must spend the final hour of their flights trapped in their seats with no television, blankets, pillows or bathroom breaks. America will lose unless that wild-eyed, third-world fanatic muttering Arabic prayers in seat 26E can be compelled to set off his crotch bomb no later than 61 minutes before landing. And the best way to accomplish that worthy goal is by giving stewardess the police powers they need to force your toddler to wet himself. But this is only the newest entry on Napolitano’s impressive resume.
Before President Spock named Napolitano national “security” shot-caller she was the 21st Governor, the third female Governor and the first space alien Governor of Arizona. And while ruling that state with an iron hand Napolitano decreed the deployment of 76 “Speeding Ticket Cameras” throughout the state.
Traffic control enforcement cameras are a racket run by a couple of soulless and demonic corporations named American Traffic Solutions, Inc. (ATS) and Redflex Holdings, Ltd. The “automated systems” are designed to catch three categories of law breakers. “Red Light Cameras” automatically ticket drivers who do not come to a full and complete stop at red lights. “Speeding Cameras” detect and photograph drivers who exceed the posted speed limit. Redflex’s “Noise Enforcement Camera System” is designed to catch motorcyclists whose exhausts exceed any locally mandated “noise pollution standard.”
Radar or sonic detectors in the systems sense the traffic infraction. High definition video recorders photograph the driver and the license plate and the ticket is then mailed to the address of the vehicle’s registered owner.
These robotic enforcement devices are spuriously promoted, like everything else in the police state, as “ensuring safety.” When red light cameras come to your city they are always accompanied by video press releases of high velocity red light runners tee-boning grandma. Usually it is grandma. Sometimes it is mommy and baby. Local television stations run these releases for days. The outcome is always the same. Grandma dies. That is why America needs Redflex red light cameras. Because without them grandma will die.
The actual fact is that about 95 percent of the time red light cameras ticket motorists who have made a rolling stop before turning right on red. That is who actually gets ticketed by these things: Grandmas and mommies in cars with automatic transmissions who are creeping forward as they look both ways before turning right.
In Los Angeles, the “fine” for turning right on red after a rolling stop is $440. The city splits the fine with Redflex. The whole procedure has practically nothing to do with public safety and practically everything to do with using police power to make money. At least 300 cities in 25 states now use these systems including Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Phoenix, San Francisco, Seattle and the nation’s capitol.
Not So Fast
People in Arizona fought back.
In December 2008, for example, a good citizen named Travis Munroe Townsend attacked one of the cameras on the 101 Loop in Glendale, Arizona with a pickaxe. The camera was not harmed. Townsend was jailed and fined $3500. Many other citizens fought back more subtly with boxes, post-it notes and silly string. Most people used a legal peculiarity to fight back.
A loophole in the Arizona law that authorized the cameras specifically prohibited transmitting any records of those violations to the Arizona Department of Transportation. That loophole effectively prevented those automated tickets from being considered in decisions to suspend or revoke someone’s driver’s license. A group named Arizona Citizens Against Photo Radar formed and advised people to just ignore the tickets when they came in the mail. And people did, by the hundreds of thousands.
Also under Arizona law, traffic tickets become invalid unless the state can prove that the violator was notified of the ticket within three months of the offense. Arizona just did not have enough process servers to keep up with all the scofflaws. So now the cameras are starting to come down.
Napolitano had promised the cameras would net the state $120 million a year. So far the systems have brought in $37 million and as people have figured out how to beat the system revenues have continued to drop. So far, Redflex claims to have lost $11 million on this profit making opportunity.
“I see all the cameras in Arizona completely coming down ” Shawn Dow, chairman of Arizona Citizens Against Photo Radar, told the New York Times last week. “The citizens of Arizona took away the cash cow of Arizona by refusing to pay.”
This is all fine for Arizona but now Redflex intends to recoup its losses on the other side of the Colorado River by fleecing “speeders” in California. Los Angeles seems to be particularly fertile ground for the scheme. The posted limit on Los Angeles freeways is 65 miles per hour. The “average” speed on the 105 freeway during non-rush hour periods, for example, exceeds 70.
The idea is to make money. This time, in cynical California, nobody is even bothering to pretend these things are about safety. All anybody is talking about is money.
California already faces a budget crisis. Steep cuts have already been made in educational funding and unless significant additional revenue can be generated cuts may have to be made to “vital services” such as police, prisons and the courts.
The plan is to install an additional 500 traffic law enforcement systems in California. The systems would generate an additional 2.4 million traffic tickets each year. The legal violations could earn as much as $780 million.
Of that amount about $58 million, or almost eight percent, would go to local governments. About $338 million, or about 43 percent according to the proposed state budget, would allow for a “general Fund reduction to the Trial Courts.”
The rest, about $384 million each year, would go to Redflex. It is already practically a done deal. You can buy a lot of politicians for $384 million.