Dear Editor – Red Light Camera Controversy Continues

The City’s contract with Redflex expires in August, and I am concerned that staff will take your approval of the police department’s budget presentation as formal direction to extend the contract to August 2019 or beyond.

I have written to the Council a number of times before – see thread below – so in today’s email I will talk about only the most recent changes – and things I have not covered before – and how they suggest that the camera program needs to be examined, closely – by an independent professional – rather than being quietly rubber stamped for more years.

1. Beginning in September 2016 the City of San Francisco reduced its red light camera ticketing by 72%; during the
twelve-month period September 2016 thru August 2017 they issued a total of just 3265 tickets compared to the average
11,572 tickets they issued in the same twelve-month periods a year and two years before.

San Francisco’s cutback was deliberate and planned, per a letter highwayrobbery (dot) net received from City Traffic
Engineer Ricardo Olea:
“You are correct that engineering changes are the most effective way to reduce red light running crashes. We’ve had
a long-standing record of improving intersection safety through signal upgrade improvements and signal timing
changes.” “We are in the process of starting a new Red Light Camera contract which will reduce the total number of
approaches being enforced in San Francisco, keeping some locations we believe are still needed based on crash
and citation history.”

How did San Francisco arrive at their decision to downsize? In 2015 the SFMTA staff did a camera-by-camera examination
of the effect the nineteen-year-old program had had upon accidents and found that the installation of a red light camera
seldom was followed by a drop in accidents. Instead, the drops occurred after engineering improvements like making the
yellows longer, adding an all-red interval (both of which are cheap to do), the addition of an arrow for left turns, or a general
upgrade to the signal. (In one instance – see page 12 of the report – staff conceded what one of the graphs shows, that the
camera may have had no effect whatsoever.) (The SFMTA has not published their report online, and I cannot attach it to
today’s email or provide a direct link as doing so could cause this email to get caught in a spam filter; to find a copy of the
report, do a Google on “SFMTA Red Light Camera Annual Report 2015” and then scroll down to Set # 4 on the
highwayrobbery (dot) net webpage which will come up.)

2. Culver City’s latest annual report (required by CVC 21455.5(i)), which covered 2016 and was published in May 2017,
revealed that the number of tickets for rolling right turns jumped eight fold between 2013 and 2016, to 20719. (The
annual report covering 2017 has not yet been published.) Many of those right turn tickets were generated by the camera
monitoring turns from northbound Sepulveda onto Green Valley Circle, which in recent years has been responsible for
approx. 40% of all tickets citywide despite there being no justification for any camera enforcement there. (See my email
of June 2016, in thread below.)

3. The justification for the six new cameras Culver City installed in 2017 (as given in the staff report prepared for the Dec. 12,
2016 Council meeting, available online at the City’s website), was overly general; the staff report briefly addressed the causes
and effects of the heavy traffic volume seen throughout the City, despite the CVC 21455.5(c)(2)(A) command to address the
specific locations being proposed for camera installation: “Prior to installing an automated traffic enforcement system after
January 1, 2013, the governmental agency shall make and adopt a finding of fact establishing that the system is needed at a
specific location for reasons related to safety.” (Emphasis added.)

4. When justifying existing or new cameras, any city’s staff-produced report is likely to include a claim that the cameras have
produced, or will produce, a BIG reduction in accidents over the years. I suggest that the Council should be very skeptical about such crash
statistics. A staff report presented to the city council in Ventura in March 2015 demonstrated one of the reasons why. (Ventura
has had Redflex cameras since 2000.)
In three prominent places in the written staff report, Ventura’s staff claimed a 75% reduction in accidents.

Fortunately, during the meeting Ventura’s mayor noticed the dramatic change between 2006 and 2007, and asked staff
about it. This was staff’s response (at 3:20:20 in the City’s online video):
“The way the police department reports collisions now is vastly different than we did when we started this program.
Now we only report – correct me if I’m wrong – now we only report injury or major property damage collisions. That’s
different. Our total collision numbers are down quite a bit because the reporting is different.”
In other words, “garbage in, garbage out.” If we adjust Ventura’s table for the reporting change the VPD made back in
2006 – 2007, the result is more like 35 – 40%, not the 75% published. And that occurred against a background of a statewide
decline of 20% in all injury accidents over the last ten years.

How can your Council get better statistics than Ventura did? I recommend that you get the accident stats done by an
independent professional with credentials in statistics. Among other things, a professional’s report will tell you which
changes are statistically significant, and which are not.

If the year-by-year accident reduction figures show that the accident reduction has flattened out over the last several years – a
period during which ticketing has increased – it may be likely that the City is ticketing more and more people each year for
technical violations having no relation to safety.

Finally, a claim of a huge reduction in accidents in Culver City is at odds with statements by the authorities in more than a
dozen other cities, who after a combined 200+ years of experience have reported little or no reduction. (To read their
statements, do a search on highwayrobbery candor and go to section 4.5 on the page that will come up. I have not
provided a live link, as links and attachments can trigger spam filters. )

5. In Nov. 2016 the former CEO of Redflex, Karen Finley – who signed Redflex’ 2002 contract with the City – was sentenced
to 30 months in Federal prison, after admitting to bribery in Chicago and Ohio. A former vice president of the company,
Aaron Rosenberg, who was based in Manhattan Beach, has alleged that the company bribed officials in thirteen states,
including California.

6. Finally, I repeat the question I asked in my email of Dec. 2016: Would you please ask the CCPD to track, and provide
a monthly report on, the disposition of red light camera violations committed in privately-owned vehicles having
protected/confidential license plates? (In California over 1.5 million private vehicles have protected plates, under the program
permitted by CVC 1808.4.)

Jim Lissner

The Actors' Gang

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