Category Archives: Red Light Cameras
That’s one of the key findings of a Chicago Tribune poll which found that two out of three people or 66% of those polled think red light cameras are a bad idea and 92% believe something must be done to change or eliminate the program.
The Trib poll was conducted after the newspaper published a story that revealed several dozen RLC intersections showed mysterious and dramatic spikes in ticketing jumping from a handful of tickets a day to literally hundreds. In all cases the enforcement spikes disappeared after days or weeks just as mysteriously as they began. Perhaps the most eyebrow raising part is the Department of Transportation was not aware of the issue nor had an explanation.
While nearly everyone (92%) believes the program needs to be changed, only 45% of those polled thinks the program should be eliminated while another 47% thinks the program needs better management and oversight.
The red light camera an Belmont and Lake Shore Drive is one of the city’s highest volume RLC intersections.
A combination of poor traffic engineering, a confusing multi-street intersection and an allegedly short yellow light, the red light camera there caught over 18,000 violators in 2012 and generated more than $1.5 million in revenue.
So the members of Citizens to Abolish Red Light Cameras thought this was a perfect place to hold a protest to bring their message of ridding the city of red light and speed cameras to motorists Saturday, August 16th.
Demonstrators will be there passing out fliers and holding up signs from 11 AM to 2 PM. Other interested motorists are invited to attend.
The 23-count indictment alleges Karen Finley provided John Bills, the retired official in charge of the city’s red light camera program, with bribes to help the company secure the city’s contract. Finley was charged with nine counts of mail fraud, three counts of wire fraud, three counts of federal program bribery, and one count of conspiracy to commit federal program bribery. Finley was the company’s CEO from 2005-2011 and was Vice-President at the time the alleged bribery scheme was hatched.
Bills, who was indicted in May, is alleged to have received nearly $600,000 in cash and other gifts for his assistance. The company raked in over $124 million in revenue from their Chicago contract over the past 11 years.
Some of Chicago’s yellow lights are too short, according to an administrative law judge who said he’s thrown out “60 to 70 percent” of red light camera tickets he’s come across recently because of the discrepancy.
The city uses the state and federal standard of having yellow lights display for a minimum of three seconds at intersections. But an administrative law judge, who hears appeals from motorists ticketed by red light cameras, said during a hearing this week that he has seen evidence that yellow times are slightly beneath that at some Chicago intersections with red light cameras.
The hearing at 400 W. Superior lasted three hours Monday, after the city sent three lawyers and several department supervisors to defend five tickets being challenged by Barnet Fagel, a video forensic specialist who helps drivers fight red light and speed camera tickets.
Three attorneys, a law department supervisor, a public information officer and a Chicago Department of Transportation deputy director overseeing the city’s traffic camera programs showed up to what normally would be a brief, attorney-free affair. Typically, drivers try to persuade administrative law judges that their ticket should be thrown out by presenting photos and other evidence.
But Monday, city attorneys Alexis Long and Tom Doran spent the first 30 minutes of the hearing challenging Fagel’s expertise and his ability to testify in these matters on behalf of the motorists who were ticketed.
Read more at DNA Info.
Activists against the city’s red-light cameras are accusing the Chicago Police Department of trying to “bully” and “politically intimidate” them during a recent protest at 119th and Halsted streets.
Citizens to Abolish Red Light Cameras posted a video online recently which shows a police sergeant calling protesters’ signs blasting the camera program and local politicians “slanderous” and then threatening to arrest at least one demonstrator.
According to group member Scott Davis, about 25 to 30 protesters were standing on the sidewalks at the four corners of the intersection holding signs and passing out fliers opposing red-light and speed cameras last month.
One hand-lettered sign said, “Got Tickets? Blame Austin,” referring to Ald. Carrie Austin, whose 34th Ward is where the intersection is located. Other signs called out Ald. Howard Brookins (21st), Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) and Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
The group had selected the intersection because it was one of the many with cameras that showed sudden spikes in tickets that the city could not explain, according to a recent Tribune story. The city inspector general is reviewing the findings.
Ald. Scott Waguespack is not screwing around this time–he wants formal hearings on the city’s red light cameras.
At Wednesday’s City Council meeting, Waguespack filed a resolution with 19 c0-sponsors demanding hearings on Chicago’s beleaguered red light camera program.
“The resolution simply says you got to have a hearing on this,” explained Waguespack.
Hearings would be held in the Committee on Transportation and the Public Way.
Waguespack and a handful of other alderman asked for hearings over a year ago after a Chicago Tribune story revealed an alleged bribery scheme between the city’s RLC vendor, Redflex Traffic Systems and former Chicago Department of Transportation Deputy Commissioner John Bills. Bills has since been federally indicted.
At the time the aldermen felt it was time to give the program a hard look–but were ignored.
“We represent the people,” said an agitated Waguespack. “They said ‘go shove it to the people of the City of Chicago. It took a federal grand jury to get things going.”
A city official and Redflex Traffic Systems employees met for beers and to rig the bid so the company could win Chicago’s red light camera contrct back in 2003 according to a former company employee who testified in front of a federal grand jury this past Wednesday.
The Chicago Tribune reports the former Redflex emplyee re-told the same story to a grand jury he told to the newspaper earlier this year, about how former Deputy Commissioner John Bills met with company officials at the Signature Room in the John Hancock Building the night before the bid presentation.
Bills allegedly coached the Redflex team on what to say and behave in order to secure a contract that ultimately paid the company over $120 million over 11 years. The city issued over $500 million in red light camera fines over the same time period.
In a statement released late Friday afternoon, Inspector General Joseph Ferguson’s office said a Chicago Tribune story about unknown spikes in tickets at RLC intersection prompted Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office, the Chicago Department of Transportation and a group of city council members to request the OIG to step in to review the system.
“In the wake of recent media reports, the public’s questions regarding the Red-Light Camera program are understandable,” noted Ferguson. “A multi-pronged approach is clearly needed to restore public confidence in this enforcement program.”
That’s what the Citizens to Abolish Red Light Cameras and Cook County Campaign for Liberty are doing in announcing four weeks of back-to-back protests and events to promote their anti-traffic camera message.
“A total of four consecutive Saturday events are planned as we continue to bring our message to “Ban the cams” to the people of Chicago!,” said Scott Davis, the head of Cook County Campaign for Liberty in a statement via e-mail.
The group has been holding demonstrations every two weeks over the spring and summer at red light camera and speed camera locations across the city.
But on the heels of an investigative report by the Chicago Tribune, which pointed out troubling technical glitches with Chicago’s red light camera program and a breathtaking lack of program oversight by the city, the group wants to surf the waves of intense anti-camera sentiment that has resulted.
Since Sunday’s Chicago Tribune story reporting mysterious spikes in red light camera violations several years ago, there’s been pressure from aldermen and the media for a response from City Hall.
Late Wednesday, Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld responded to the controversy with testimony in front of the city council’s Committee on Pedestrian and Traffic Safety.
“The Mayor and CDOT take very seriously the validity of and public confidence in all of our safety programs, including the red light camera program,” Scheinfeld said to begin her explanatory testimony. “Red light camera enforcement is designed to increase safety on Chicago’s streets. Cities across the country, and throughout the world, have been using such technology for many years.”