It was inevitable. Somebody finally went off on one of Arizona’s speeding ticket cameras.
An otherwise law-abiding, good citizen, named Travis Munroe Townsend hit a speeding ticket camera at the corner of 59th Street and the Loop 101 Freeway in suburban Glendale early Thursday morning.
He hit it six times with a pick axe. Arizona State Police caught him in the act. The camera was only slightly damaged and was back in operation by Thursday afternoon.
Law Enforcement Reacts
Townsend, 26, is now incarcerated in the Maricopa County Jail. He is charged with felony criminal damage and interfering with a traffic control device. He faces three years in prison and a $150,000 fine.
Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) Director Roger Vanderpool seems intent on making an example out of Townsend. “From criminal damage charges to charges related to interfering with judicial proceedings that can carry lengthy jail terms and hefty fines, the ramifications a person could face for tampering with a photo enforcement site are extremely serious,” Vanderpool, or whoever writes his press releases, said. “DPS Officers will continue to be vigilant at all hours of the day and night and stand ready to respond quickly to reports or first hand observances of persons tampering with or vandalizing photo enforcement sites in any manner.”
Technically, under Arizona law, a speed limit camera is not a traffic control device. But, Vanderpool apparently interprets Arizona Revised Statute 28-601 to mean that the sign under the camera that reads “Photo Enforced” is a traffic control device. And since the camera is, sort of, attached to the sign by a common pole he construes the camera to be a “traffic control device” as well.
Don’t worry. Many people are confused by the subtleties of American law. One of them may even be Roger Vanderpool.
Last month, Vanderpool threatened to use the same charge against the unknown perpetrator or perpetrators who placed yellow sticky notes on the lenses of the automated ticket devices. Those desperados remain unidentified and at large.
The Robot Cop Industry
The new speeding ticket cameras have been enormously unpopular in Arizona since they were first installed earlier this fall. The machines attempt to capture a photo of the driver and license plate of any car that exceeds the posted speed limit by ten miles an hour or more. The devices have a success rate of about 25 percent.
Still, that was good enough for the DPS to issue 40,401 speeding tickets in the first two months of the “enforcement program.” There are about 20 cameras at fixed locations on Phoenix area highways. The DPS plans to install 12 more fixed cameras in Phoenix this month and have 100 cameras in use by the end of January.
Of course, somebody is getting rich off this and it is not the taxpayers. It is the cops and Redflex Traffic Systems, the company that makes, maintains and actually operates the cameras.
The DPS made $6.6 million off the cameras in two months. Under the normal terms of their contracts, Redflex probably also grossed about $6.6 million off those speeding tickets.
Redflex is an Australian company with U.S. offices in Culver City, California. And, their toll free phone number, by the way, is 866-703-8097 just in case you would like to call them and tell them what you think of the job they are doing.
Usually, Reflex splits the take from the violations it detects with the contracting municipality.
According to a Redflex press release, the company “has contracts with more than 220 U.S. cities, and is the largest provider of digital red light and speed enforcement services in North America. With photo speed programs in 9 states and photo red light programs across 22 states, Redflex has consistently led the market in contract wins, system installation rates and market share.”
Karen Finley, CEO of Redflex, brags, “With our US market share rapidly growing, Redflex is unequivocally the most widely trusted name in automated speed enforcement. We are extremely pleased to see the documented benefits to our law enforcement partners who are using Redflex enhanced technologies to significantly decrease the occurrence of speeding, which is one the major causes of crashes, deaths, and injuries on the nation’s roadways.”
Apparently, CEO is the new spelling for Pirate in Charge.
But This Is America
Numerous Arizona citizens who cannot shake the delusion that America still has something to do with the philosophy of Thomas Jefferson, are outraged by the automated speeding tickets. Some of them have formed a group called Camerafraud which is trying to put an imitative on the Arizona ballot in 2010 to end or soften automated traffic enforcement.
Camerafraud quickly distanced itself from vigilantes like Townsend. In a release, the group said that while attacking the cameras with pickaxes might be emotionally gratifying, it only plays “into the hands of a publicity machine funded by those who profit from photo ticketing.”
“It’s unfortunate that the person (meaning Townsend) chose not to follow the example of Rosa Parks or Gandhi, both of whom protested against oppressive government by thoughtfully and peacefully breaking the laws they felt to be unjust,” the release said.