Photo radar, we all know it; we all despise it. I believe Arizona’s current implementation of it underscores how easy it is to setup an entire business predicated on a lie. All it takes is the ability to wrap yourself around an issue that people care about (dying while driving), a source of credibility (law enforcement) and a bit of a business model to churn a profit (long-term contracts with municipalities).
This great American lie has started (and soon to end) with money. You know, that capitalistic kind of stuff. Dollar, dollar bill, ya’ll.
It all started with the phenomenon and the grossly horrifying trend of red-light running. Phoenix ranked up as number one in the country for it with no seeming end in sight. To address this problem, state legislatures welcomed the idea that private organizations could potentially reduce fatal collisions at intersections. Overwhelmingly, the state moved forward on this because taxpayers expected them to facilitate better traffic safety.
However, then a shift in morals happened. Not sure when, or why or how … but it happened.
The state authorized the “expansion” of the photo traffic enforcement program to include speeding at intersections. Even more, this motive broke off into its own program for regulating speeds on highways. Throughout this process, it criminalized average, law-abiding citizens for otherwise debatable, contextual infractions.
This great American lie started with money. Just imagine what those PowerPoint decks looked like — probably one of those that included a sharp rise in revenue. Literally, the State sold out its responsibilities of looking after individual rights in favor of balancing the budget. (Can any state balance a budget?) This sell-out has certainly divided politicians, representatives and constituents on the matter.
Just like how money was the catalyst to photo enforcement, it will also be the retardant. Many municipalities have observed the Bell curve on revenue, usually hitting the peak of revenue after about 90 days from installation and sliding downward from there as people deliberately slow down for the cameras. (Usually under posted speeds, even.)
Like I eluded to earlier, the lie doesn’t end there.
In such as fashion that mirrors political propaganda only seen under the days of a dictator, photo enforcement companies began to proselytize their “opinions” as fact and have law enforcement organizations publish them to local and regional media. This, in effect, legitimizes the program. By comparison, if a pharmaceutical company funded stats on how a certain medication saved millions of lives and had the Food & Drug Administration release their findings as fact, they would be litigated to no end and likely further regulatory intervention.
Whenever the media cites photo enforcement statistics in their reports, who do they go to? Their local law enforcement. Where does the local law enforcement get their stats from? Opinion-based, for-profit think-tanks that have been funded by photo enforcement private companies. Do you see the picture now?
In addition to all the other points on the great American lie, the courts and subsequently taxpayers pay the greater price. Courts have become inundated with baseless cases, judges are tired of seeing people go in and pull out ‘the book’ on questioning their accusers. The “plaintiff” in these civil matters … is an agent of the private organization who is contracted to catch violators and possibly secure a conviction. These companies pride themselves on the “highest conviction rates” possible with the technology.
Sidenote: I don’t dispute the technology. It’s pretty solid and very primitive. It’s bullet-proof when contesting it. It’s the legal application have a vice with.
These conviction rates mean that people inherently have the house stacked against them. In my experience a couple months ago, the plaintiff exaggerated facts, took statements out of context and had minimal patience for hearing the legitimate defense for the matter. This isn’t justice. This is the effect of the great American lie. Most judges immediately have a judgment in their head as to who’s responsible and guess what — it’s not Redflex.
Here’s the big picture of how photo enforcement (“photo radar”) has evolved in Arizona:
I score each step with a Fail or Successful for the photo enforcement companies.
- zOMG! Red-light running.
- Red-light cameras installed in pilot project. Successful.
- Red-light cameras officially adopted. Successful.
- Red-light cameras become equipped with speed enforcement. Successful.
- Red-light cameras decommission in low-profit zones. Successful.
- Speed enforcement cameras deployed in pilot project. Successful.
- Speed enforcement cameras expanded under back-office contract statewide. Successful.
- Drivers quickly learn photo enforcement “complaints” are fictitious. Fail.
- Local media highlights the “truth” about photo enforcement. Fail.
- Drivers continue to evade paying fictitious violations. Fail.
- Photo enforcement companies update traffic violation and collision statistics. Successful.
- Law enforcement concedes multiple factors in reduced collisions. Fail.
- “CameraFraud” group grows ever strong with protests and organizing ballot measure signatures. Fail
- Municipalities evaluates their photo enforcement program, revenue strategy and reallocates cameras for highest margin. Success/Fail.
- Ballot measure becomes closer to a reality that Arizona will join 17 other localities who have outlawed photo enforcement. Fail.
This is my recollection as to how the photo enforcement ‘great American lie’ has evolved. The next steps are important. You need to understand these photo enforcement companies are built with money and will flex their investor’s muscles to do whatever they can to keep the great American lie profitable. It ends with you. Don’t let their upcoming ads phase you. As long as you keep paying, that’s all they care about public safety.
I urge anyone and everyone in Arizona who gets a photo radar citation to:
- Do not respond to ANY mailed “traffic complaint.” It’s false and only presumes responsibility.
- Should you be served, then and only then mail back a response you request a hearing. Plea “not responsible.”
- Submit a FOIA requests for any records, data and traffic surveying for the violation site to the law enforcement agency. (Usually DPS.)
- Appear in court … object to any puffery. Cross-examine with questions and have a solid reason why you’re not responsible.
When you do this, you show the state how costly their photo enforcement program really is. Fewer convictions means Redflex /ATS becomes that much weaker when they try to sell their program to other states. Everyone must request their constitutionally-protected hearing, present the facts of the case and win in order to defeat photo enforcement.
And finally, sign the “Photo Radar Ban” ballot measure. It’s the only way we can actually vote on it in November. No photo enforcement initiatives has ever survived a public vote and it’s time to let the people speak out on this one in Arizona.
I previously shared 10 reasons why photo enforcement is wrong. I also helped share one angle on a recent anti-Redflex protest. Both are worth a quick read. I hope I illustrated how this great American lie is operated. If you have comments, please share them below.