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Red Light Camera Corruption in Chicago?

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 13, 2013 6:54 pm    Post subject: Red Light Camera Corruption in Chicago? Reply with quote

Last week in the newsletter we reported that the Australian Speed Camera manufacturer had requested share trading to be suspended pending an investigation into the possible illegal activities in procuring the Chicago contract. More details have been emerging this week.

The City of Chicago Inspector General's Office is conducting an investigation into Redflex's business dealings particularly with regard to contract procurement. Meanwhile Redflex has employed a law firm to conduct their own independent investigation. Both of these investigations are still ongoing, but the severity of the findings and in response to adverse media coverage by the Chicago Tribune, Redflex appear to have issued an interim statement though the wording is somewhat strange:

Redflex Holdings CEO Robert DeVincenzi has been quoted by the Chicago Tribune saying "Although the investigation is not over, we learned that some Redflex employees did not meet our own code of conduct and the standards that the people of the City of Chicago deserve. We are sharing information with law enforcement authorities, will take corrective action and I will do everything in my power to regain the trust of the Chicago community."

There seems to be an implicit admission of guilt in that press statement, which given the early release suggests that there may well be some other very serious repercussions.

The City of Chicago has already announced that when the Redflex contract ends in July 2013 the company will “not be considered a responsible vendor for the new RFP for red light cameras that the City intends to issue in the near future.”

Meanwhile Redflex have announced that in 2012 Chicago Red Light Cameras contributed 13% of the company's income. Coupled with the ongoing investigations and what will, no doubt, turn into a legal case the company is quoted as saying "it is not possible to provide guidance in relation to the full year result at this time" regarding its 2012 profits.

In the USA the Red Light Camera program is a much hated method of enforcement. This is particularly evident in most local media where there is rarely a good word to be said for them, and citizen's rights of confronting their accuser are often heard as an argument against them.

To a certain extent it is very difficult to argue against Red Light Camera enforcement. Jumping a red light is clearly dangerous and unsafe. To trigger a Red Light Camera requires either a conscious decision on the part of the driver, or a serious lapse of attention to your driving and the road, both of which are unjustifiable and indefensible. This is a clear-cut act which does not involve any discretion on the part of the authorities.

There are arguments that the yellow light periods have been reduced to entice more people to try and make it before the lights turn red, but no concrete evidence has been put forward to prove this. One way to enhance safety at these crossings would be to increase the timings when both directions have red lights before releasing traffic. The only issue with this is that the public would get used to the additional delays and drive accordingly.

It seems therefore that the only way to educate drivers is to hit them where it hurts most: in their pockets. This, of course, leads to claims that the cameras are simply cash generators for the cities. There is a very simple way to prevent that 'stealth tax', simply not going through a red light.

The case with RedFlex shows that when there is so much money involved there is the potential for corruption. It is clearly a good business model for a city to have a third party install cameras and run them leaving the city to collect a percentage of the profits. This means that the city has no financial risk, but scoops up part of the fines from the violations.

Possibly one of the more painful pills for the Americans to swallow is that a good proportion of the fines head overseas to a foreign company. Maybe the cameras would be more acceptable if the cities paid for the installation and maintenance to the camera company and retained the management and financing themselves. That way they would need a clear case for safety before any camera is installed knowing that they need to fully justify the installation to the community that has elected them.
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Mike Barrett
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