Tag Archives: Chicago red light cameras
A former Chicago Department of Transportation manager who oversaw the city’s red light camera program was arrested this morning and indicted for accepting bribes to help Redflex Traffic Systems secure $124 million in contracts.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, John Bills allegedly accepted “cash and personal benefits totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars” from Redflex which included a $177,000 condominium located in Arizona.
Bills, 52, of Chicago, was charged with one count of federal program bribery in a criminal complaint that was filed Tuesday and unsealed today. Bills was scheduled to appear at 3 p.m. before U.S. Magistrate Judge Maria Valdez in Federal Court.
Bribery convictions carry a maximum 10 year sentence.
Bills retired from his position as managing deputy commissioner for CDOT in 2011 and managed the city’s red light camera program since it’s inception in 2003. Bills also served as a member of the committee which evaluated city contracted which included the red light camera contract awarded to Redflex.
Lights, camera, protest!
Members of the Citizens To Abolish Red Light Cameras, were just minding their own business holding signs and protesting the red light cameras at the intersection of 95th & Ashland Avenue Saturday when a camera crew from WGN TV showed up to film the festivities.
Even as Redflex Traffic Systems’ scandal-plagued 11-year tenure operating the nation’s largest red-light camera system was ending, it was a particularly lucrative year for the company.
The last Redlfex cameras — at the intersection of Grand, Kostner and North — were turned off in February, but in the year before that, the company raked in $24 million, city records show, the second most profitable year in the company’s Chicago history.
The money flowed in even after February 2013, the date the company was banned from bidding on new work with the city. Xerox Local Solutions now runs the city’s red-light camera system.
“Redflex is out of the picture and [everything is] under the control of Xerox,” Chicago Department of Transportation spokesman Pete Scales said Friday. “Their contract is over and we have no financial relationship with Redflex now.”
Redflex was unceremoniously banned from bidding to maintain control of the cameras after the Tribune revealed an alleged bribery scandal that found the CDOT Deputy Commissioner overseeing the program accepted tickets to sporting events, luxury hotel accommodations, meals and other gifts from company executives. Federal authorities are now investigating the allegations.
Two anti-camera enforcement groups will be targeting 27th Ward Alderman Walter Burnett at a protest this Saturday, April 19th.
Citizens to Abolish Red Light Cameras and Cook County Campaign for Liberty will be near Union Park on the city’s near West Side from 11 AM to 2 PM with signs, fliers and manpower to remind drivers of Burnett’s part in passing Chicago’s speed camera ordinance in 2012.
“Now is the time to take action and inform the VOTERS of Chicago about what their elected officials are doing when they are not watching,” group officials say via e-mail. “It’s time to Ban The Cams!”
Burnett was a yes vote for installing speed cameras near parks and schools.
Because two local activist groups are planning on spending the next year protesting and working to unseat any alderman who voted for the newly minted camera enforcement system.
Cook County Campaign for Liberty and Citizens to Abolish Red Light Cameras are teaming up to conduct weekly protests at speed camera and red light camera sites in wards where aldermen support this type of enforcement.
“We intend to hit as many of these aldermen as possible this summer,” explained Cook County Coordinator for Campaign for Liberty. “We want to identify local leaders in every part of the city and take action on these candidates and flip 12 aldermen to no votes so we can get 26 no votes on the city council (to repeal the speed camera program).”
Drivers appear to be hitting the brakes at red lights — leading to a big drop in tickets issued by red-light cameras, city officials said.
For the fifth year in a row, Chicago’s red-light camera program has seen a significant decline in the number of tickets issued.
The city’s 384 red-light cameras issued 579,460 tickets last year — 32,619 fewer than in 2012, representing a 5 percent decline, according to data obtained from the city’s Finance Department.
In fact, the data shows red-light camera tickets have been falling steadily since 2009, when 722,935 tickets were issued, a record at the time after a dramatic expansion of the program a year earlier. The 140,000-ticket drop represents a 20 percent decline since the peak five years ago.
Fewer tickets issued means a potential drop in fine revenue. At $100 a ticket, that translates to an estimated $3.2 million drop in fines issued between 2012 and 2013 and a $14.3 million drop in total fines issued since 2009.
Tribune Problem Solver columnist Jon Yates tried to get some justice for a driver who seemed to have received an unfair red light camera ticket a few weeks ago.
The driver took a right on red at the intersection of Austin Avenue and Irving Park Road and seemed to have barely come to a complete stop before proceeding to turn right.
A red light ticket was issued and the driver, who contends he stopped, contested by mail and lost.
That’s where Yates came into the picture. Despite his best efforts, the city held its ground and refused to reverse the decision of the Administrative Law Judge who ruled against the driver.
The driver stopped.
That’s what Barnet Fagel ascertained when he looked at the video of a driver who was given a red light camera ticket by Chicago after he allegedly took a right on red without stopping.
The minor controversy was sparked by a story by the Tribune’s Problem Solver columnist Jon Yates.
Fagel took it upon himself to analyze the driver’s video to see if he actually stopped.
“He stopped,” says Barnet Fagel. “He definitely came to a complete stop. The first time he tries to stop, but doesn’t come to a complete stop until he pulled up past the stop bar to check oncoming traffic.”
Redflex Traffic Systems had the inside track to win Chicago’s red light camera contract in 2003 reported the Chicago Tribune on Friday.
According to a former Redflex employee, former Deputy Director for the Chicago Department of Transportation John Bills allegedly coached the Redflex team on how to act during their pitch for the multi-million red light camera contract.
Bills and five Redflex employees allegedly met at the Signature Room atop the John Hancock Building in 2003, the night before they would present their bid at City Hall. The employee implies to the Tribune, Bills had put the fix in for Redflex to get the contract.
Not surprisingly, Redflex ended up winning the contract–a contract which will finally end in April, 2014.
The city’s red light camera system is in transition.
Xerox Local and State Solutions, the new vendor for Chicago’s huge red light camera enforcement program, is in the midst of transitioning the cameras from Redflex Traffic Systems to their control.
In some cases, Xerox can use the current hardware as the city owns the cameras. In other cases, Xerox needs to install new hardware.
This is what was going on Wednesday afternoon at the intersection of Elston Avenue and Addison Street on the city’s Northwest Side.
Seeing an opportunity to get some photos of the new cameras, I pulled over, parked and began taking photos of red light camera units with their casings off, exposing the inside of the units.
At first, I didn’t see the technicians sitting inside vans there. But shortly after I began taking photos a gentleman got out of one of the vans and began sternly instructing me to put away my camera.