Wednesday, May 27, 2015

To Ticket or Not to Ticket

The people hate red light and speeding cameras, but our rulers love them. Citizens to Abolish Red Light Cameras claims, “Since 1991, there have been a total of 35 election contests in Arizona, California, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Texas, Washington. With few exceptions, automated ticketing has failed by as much as 86 percent. One city did embrace the use of cameras after uniformed police officers were dispatched to go door-to-door to "encourage" citizens to keep the ticketing system in place.” If you really thought we had a “government of the people, by the people, for the people,” the red light camera issue should disabuse you of that mistake.
As if reading from a script, Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl communicated our rulers’ perspective to The Dayton Daily News. “‘The purpose of using red light and speed enforcement cameras is to prevent accidents and save lives,’ Biehl said. ‘The very presence of the cameras has been proven to change people’s dangerous driving habits. Since the red light cameras were installed in 2003, we have seen a noticeable reduction in light-running accidents at intersections where the cameras are in place, and a similar reduction in accidents citywide. We expect to see further reductions.’”
Even if Biehl was telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, which he’s not, his argument would still be illegitimate. It presupposes that mundane adults - those who don’t work for government - are children who must be controlled by morally and intellectually superior rulers. This is obviously untrue. People who work for the government have no moral or intellectual superiority over people who don’t. Adults are not children who must be looked after by a paternalistic government for their own good.
Even if Biehl’s claim was true, he fails to mention the trade-offs which the people overwhelmingly reject. The DDN reports, “The number of speeding tickets issued in Dayton increased nearly 1,400 percent to 58,325 since the city added speed cameras to some of its busiest streets two years ago. A Dayton Daily News investigation found at a rate of 152 a day, or more than six per hour, the city’s 14 traffic cameras issued 55,676 speeding tickets in 2012.” Clearly the people do not find Biehl’s supposed benefit worth this outrageous cost.
Furthermore, Biehl is not telling anywhere near the whole truth. A number of independent studies show red light cameras increase accidents and risk to safety, contrary to Biehl’s claim.
Biehl also fails to mention the cameras open the door to significant corruption. Since the people receiving the tickets have no recourse in a criminal court to challenge the evidence against them, there’s no way to know if the camera actually caught the person speeding or running a red light. Many victims claim they didn’t break the law. Many districts shortened yellow lights in order to catch more people.
But the elephant in the room Biehl fails to address is the financial motive behind the cameras. The DDN discovered, “[Dayton] records show speed camera citations generated $2.38 million between April and December 2012.” That’s a lot of other people’s money stolen using these cameras. If everybody paid, that number would have jumped to $4.52 million. Tickets in the region cost car owners $5.6 million in 2012. Al Capone would consider this racket dirty. That’s why a Hamilton County judge banned the cameras. A Florida legislator called them a tax on poor people. That’s why most of Dayton’s cameras are located in poor neighborhoods. There are none around the University of Dayton, Miami Valley Hospital or downtown. Rulers don’t steal money from their cronies; they steal it from others and give it to them.
A suburb of Cleveland called Maple Heights illustrates stealing money, not safety, is the motive behind the cameras. The mayor of Maple Heights told the Associated Press, “‘[Opponents of the cameras] really didn't win anything,’ Lansky said. ‘They bankrupted the city is what they did.’” The oppressed people of Maple Heights can only hope.
Voters also banned the cameras in Cleveland, cutting $5 million from their rulers’ stolen haul. That’s $5 million their rulers can’t use to oppress them, so that’s a double victory. Cleveland’s rulers will have to make do with the millions more they steal in other ways.
All Ohioans may soon breathe a sigh of relief since the Ohio Senate recently passed a bill that would require all tickets to be issued by a police officer. As commonsensical as that sounds, it’s going to take an act of Congress, well, the legislature, to make it reality.
But the legislature isn’t doing this because it’s the right thing to do. They’re doing it because 65 percent of the money collected goes to an out-of-state manufacturer. If this ban passes, some crony will begin producing red light cameras in Ohio and get that ban overturned. Then we’ll be right back where we are today but with no hope for a legislative remedy.

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