Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Traffic Camera Fines ARE About Revenue!

I’ve written my opinion on the use of camera issued traffic tickets and how they are used to increase revenue as opposed to the claim that they’re true intention is to deter folks from running red lights. The banner on my blog explains how my op-ed piece on red light camera tickets got me into blogging.

In case you aren’t familiar with the issue, tickets issued by a traffic enforcement camera are handled as civil rather than criminal cases. Municipalities which employ such systems willingly admit that tickets issued by cameras could not stand up to the requirements of a criminal court; but such high standards don’t apply to civil matters, really? I’m no lawyer; all the same, when I hear lame excuses like that I make sure to wipe the brown residue from off my shoes.

This morning in the Houston Chronicle there’s even more reason to believe my original opinion is and always has been correct; traffic camera fines ARE about revenue and little else. This is a money making scam and has nothing to do with making the streets safer.

The City of Houston has attempted to block registration of vehicles until red light camera issued tickets have been paid; but has made not such move toward folks who neglect to pay traffic tickets issued by police officers.

“County Judge Ed Emmett questioned why the county was being asked to block registration only of those with unpaid red-light camera citations, and not those who failed to pay tickets issued by police.”

“George Hammerlein, director of inter-governmental affairs with the tax office, said the data from red-light cam_ era citations is easier to use than criminal court data, which can be difficult to determine whether a conviction is final.”

Oh, so that’s it; when a camera snaps your picture there is a presumption of guilt, just as if a trial had already taken place, a judgment of guilty rendered and a fine mandated. Now I get it; civil trials take place the moment your vehicle clears the intersection, somewhere in the mechanism of the camera. I always wanted to know the difference between civil and criminal courts; now I know.

The only witness needed in a civil trial is the camera; no need for a defendant to have the opportunity to cross examine a mechanical device, everyone knows cameras can’t be questioned on the witness stand? Yes, that was a question.

I recall a Star Trek episode, one of the older ones, where Captain Kirk’s judgment and career were on trial, on the line based on the Enterprise’s computer historical record, a record which showed he didn’t follow procedures and acted improperly. The purpose was to remind us of the fallibility of machines and the requirement to have human witness, witnesses who could be cross examined in order to permit the accused a fair hearing.

Running a red light is a serious traffic violation and deserves to be addressed; but addressed through the proper channels; with a police officer being the primary witness and, if possible, mechanical verification to back up the testimony of the police officer. It has been proposed that a police officer, by virtue of the fact that all images of a violation are reviewed by a certified law enforcement officer, that a police officer actually witnessed each and every violation; can you say, “BS”?

Turning red light violations into a revenue tool, a means to make up for budget short falls reduces the significance of the violation. “We gave part of the money to hospitals”, that makes it okay; can you say, “BS”?

Here’s an op-ed piece I submitted December 15, 2004; you can imagine my surprise that the Houston Chronicle didn’t print it.

“The City of Houston could take the idea of Camera Issued Red Light Tickets into the main stream of business by installing pop up tire shredding devices; triggered when the light turns red. Vehicles entering the intersection on a red light would not only get a ticket in the mail they would also have to replace all four tires immediately. There would be a flurry of new tire sales. There would be increased damage to vehicles that drove on four flat tires. The wrecker business would triple along with the car repair business. Jobs would be created for the unemployed and the economy would jump forward. There would of course be those who could not afford to repair their vehicles or pay for the new set of tires. As we have been reminded, “Driving is not a Right, it’s a Privilege.” Those vehicles would be confiscated to pay for traffic fines and services rendered; then donated to Big Brother or some other charitable organization to help those less fortunate. The Mayor and City Council have their hearts and minds working for all the people all the time.”

Think of the construction at red light intersections now using cameras to enforce violations; installation of shredding devices alone would employ hundreds of out of work contractors and laborers. All those illegal aliens living in our sanctuary city wouldn’t have to stand around waiting for a job while urinating on the back wall of the local convenience store if they could do those jobs nobody wants to do, tearing up concrete, laying re-bar and mucking around in rubber boots.

Then the need for new wreckers to haul off damaged vehicles would mean applications for wrecker licenses and all the associated fees; my goodness, what a windfall that would be. The weekly auctioning off of damaged vehicles by those unable to pay fines or repair damaged vehicles would bring in huge amounts of money, enough to fund mass transit for those now walking.

Are we having fun yet? Come on, get with the spirit of the program; saving lives and property by enforcing red light violations. And don’t forget, the hospitals get a percentage of the profit, my aren’t we a city on a hill to behold…

I can’t recall where I “borrowed” the picture of the red light; gosh and oh by golly, I hope nobody comes after me for that. I suppose I should get out my camera and take my own picture, one that would look just the same except it would have come from my own work.

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