Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Red Light Camera's


One item that has come up in Santa Fe County recently is the use of Red Light Cameras at Santa Fe County intersections. The use of these cameras to issue official criminal traffic citations is illegal in the state of New Mexico. State Law requires citations to be given by a uniformed certified officer who must witness the infraction. The only exception is in the case of an accident when the officer can rely on evidence at the scene and witness statements to issue the citations. So how does Albuquerque use the Red Light cameras to issue citations? They do this through a civil action.

The citations issued are civil summons issued by the city. The only cause of action if you do not pay the citation is for the city to take civil action and boot your vehicle under civil forfeiture ordinances until you pay. If you do pay the citation then the only penalty is the cash you send to the city. No matter how many citations you get for running red lights by the cameras you will not receive points on your M.V.D. records. Your insurance companies will not know you even received a citation. The penalty is cash and or impoundment. Violators are fined $100 the first time, $250 plus a 30-day impound of the vehicle for the second time. For subsequent offenses, there is a $500 fine plus a 90-day impound. The city saves on storage fees by impounding your car in your own driveway by booting the vehicle.

The number of cameras in Albuquerque that will catch those running red lights has doubled in the last month and will increase five times in a year. Critics say that the city is expanding the program not to prevent red light accidents but rather because the cameras are huge moneymakers for the City. In February of 2006 a traffic camera at Coors and Paseo del Norte caught 1,353 motorists driving through the intersection after the light turned red. Assuming that all citations were first time violators the city raised $338,250 in one month at one location.

A real disturbing trend is the local media searching the records of who was cited and publicizing politicians, government workers, police officers and other notables who are caught running the lights. I am someone who really does not media bash or blame the media for all the worlds ills however, how many searches have been done for media workers who are caught by the camera's. If you make a mistake and are caught by the camera is public embarrassment for the select few who work for the government or whom are public figures an intended punishment of which only those individuals should be subjected? Granted everyone’s driving record is public record but its not as likely that you will ever see a public officials citation written by a regular officer published on the front page or on the ten o’clock news.

I really see a problem when traffic citations are used as a revenue source. Unlike the view of many cited motorists, there are no quotas. We do not raise the Sheriff's Office Revenue by issuing citations. The public would probrably not re-elect me nor should they if we had quotas. These promote abuse and bad citations issued by deputies who just need to pull over citizens in order to reach their quota. We do receive $1 (one dollar) for every citation that is plead or found guilty in court. Most are not, usually people go to driving school or get a deferred sentence and we do not get the dollar. Last year I believe we got about $10,000 from the thousands of citations we issued. This was out of a taxpayer provided budget of just under seven million dollars.

The bottom line is we give citations as educational tools, not to raise money. They final question I have is do we approve that the owner of the vehicle should pay the price no matter who is driving when the red light is run? Drivers are not usually identified so the car and the owner are cited not the actual driver. So what do you think? Do the problems of red light runners and the high amount of accidents they cause justify the use of the red light cameras? Feel free to comment on this post.

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

Anything to deal with the red light running problem that is so common here in Santa Fe. I've seen more accidents due to ignoring red lights along Cerrillos (especially at Airport), that something really should be done to deter people from being so willing to just blast through the light. It's not feasible to get officers out to enforce red light issues -- just a quick calculation of the number of stop lights, and the number of officers makes it obvious that it's impossible to police by real officers. Why not also just take the small amount of money that would be generated by the cameras, and just re-invest it into further traffic safety measures - this would quiet those who believe that the cameras are simply a money making venture. I can't understand why some people don't want something that is intended to make the roads safer for everyone. Driving is too dangerous around here.

Anonymous said...

These cameras seem to be causing issues all over the world. We have had them in Cleveland, Ohio for several months now.

I've done a lot of research and these cameras violate the Ohio Revised Code in many ways. However, I live outside of the City of Cleveland and have no power to vote within the city limits. It's not the fact that the law was broken, but that cities in Ohio are violating the law.

I have decided to cast my vote with the one thing I do have: my dollar. I refuse to spend any money within the Cleveland City Limits until they remove the cameras.

Will it hurt the local economy? Sure, but hey, this is Captalism and I have the right to use, or not use my dollar where-ever I choose.

PS Just yesterday some people in Athens Greece doused two red light cameras in gasoline and set them on fire... I think this is a pretty tame response.

Anonymous said...

I know the camera got me as I went on by Central and Moon, the truck I got from Blue Sky auto has alot of problems, such as, the big tire and wheels are to much for the brakes, backup lights inop, 4X4 does not work, not worth the money of 7,000. Now I get this damn ticket because the brakes will not stop the vehical safely in a quick stop.... thanks Jim.

Anonymous said...

The camera's have some advantages, but at what cost. Who is making all the money and where is it going? Our tax dollars pay for the streets those cameras are on, yet we were not allowed to vote on the use of the cameras. In Albuquerque police officers are being cited. Now I have no idea how many, but if an officer is on duty, how dare they be cited. For those of you who are in law enforcement you know all of the things you think about when enroute a call. Like what's the fastest, safest route, should I turn off my sirens, how many back-up units do I need, is there a weapon involved, should I have rescue started, etc.., Oh and now, is there a red light camera that I am going to have to run, and announce over the air. Yes in Albuquerque we have to waste valuable, life saving air time to announce we ran a red light. Whose safety are concerned about?? Sure isn't police officers.

Anonymous said...

I want to know what happens when you send the ticket in with the information of the person who was actually driving the vehicle instead of just the person who the car is registered to. Do they rewrite the ticket? Also why is there an option to fight the ticket? Is there a chance it will get thrown out?

I want to know what happens when you send the ticket in with the information of the person who was actually driving the vehicle instead of just the person who the car is registered to. Do they rewrite the ticket? Also why is there an option to fight the ticket? Is there a chance it will get thrown out?

As for the cops having to state that they are going through a red light, that’s probably not the best solution because there are more important things to be worrying about. But I do think every ticket that involves a city vehicle (e.g. police car) should be checked to see if that city worker (e.g. officer) was on duty. If they weren’t then they should have to pay the fine and have that on their record just like every other person in the city.

Sheriff Greg Solano said...

I am sorry I don't have the answers to your questions however I suggest you contact the police in what ever juristiction you got a ticket. I know that in Albuquerque there is a procedure to claim you were not the driver. Good Luck

outofstatedriver said...

So what happens if your tags are from out of state but you are here on a temporary basis? How is the citation issued and enforced in a situation as such? Are they going to try to find you on the other side of the country and boot your vehicle? I can't imagine that. Then, what?

Mike said...

Hello Greg. I am glad to see that you have a blog, because there needs to be some dialog between citizens and the police.

I have been a cab driver for a little over 6 years and I got hit with a 150 dollar ticket for going 13 miles-an-hour over the speed limit; 53 in a 40. I am not a wealthy person and this seems exhorbitant to me. As a cab driver I am also part of the solution as far as D.W.I.

I think the cameras are a creepy trend, and I find that I fear what will come next. The latest of course is outlawing the use of handsfree cell phones while driving. Despite the fact that I saw an officer in an unmarked white police car talking on his cell phone while driving just today! I think that some people can handle talking on the phone and driving and others cannot. As far as that goes, what about using a two-way radio while driving, as cab drivers, and, I assume, police officers, do? Isn't that about as bad as talking on a cell phone?

At this rate I expect Albuquerque to be a smoke free dry county by summer. I would still have problems with it but would not feel quite as bad about all the revenue the city is bringing in from D.W.I. and all the rest of this if they at least provided decent bus service in this town as an alternative to driving. With decent mass trasnportation I would agree that driving is a privelage and not a right. Mike

Mike said...

Good morning, Greg, as of this writing. Mike again.

By your explanation I am getting that the red light cameras being a civil matter, combined with the fact that the only penalites are fines, "booting," and impoundment, is what allows Albuquerque to skirt the state law requiring an officer to witness an infraction.

Would you mind if I try to send some fellow cab drivers or possibly others to your bog as a sounding board on the red light cameras?

Thanks. Cab driver, Mike.

Sheriff Greg Solano said...

My blog is for communication between everyone so of course you are welcome to send anyone here to discuss this or any other issue. Thanks for reading!

Anonymous said...

If anyone is cited, then all must be cited - that includes city workers! The ONLY exception would be an Officer or Ambulance responding to a call with their Red Lights turned on! And yes, the cameras have little to due with safety, and everything to due with money. Lengthening the yellow light by 1 second has been proven to reduce accidents by 96%, far more than any cameras!

Anonymous said...

Every few days now we see a new camera getting installed in Albuquerque. An article published by KOAT 4 here in Albuquerque said "City officials claim the program has not generated any profit and that all but $250,000 of the $5.2 million raised has been spent on the program itself." I think the only reason so far there is no excess money is because we are using the money NOW to place new cameras all over town....

But what then when there are no more intersections to purchase new cameras for and it is making in excess of 20 million. It will happen when the number of cameras quadruples. Are they going to keep saying the money is just going back into the program when there is nowhere for it to go? As others have said it just another way to gouge the people of the community to yield a profit for the City.

As I believe many are, I am trying my best to avoid a ticket and have a question about the licence plate covers that obstruct your plate when looked at from an angle... I know the flash protectors out there only protect if there is a flash but our cameras here have rolling video that captures you vehicle while it goes through the intersection. ARE THESE COVERS ILLEAGLE IN THE STATE OF NEW MEXICO OR ALBUQUERQUE? I just don't want to try to avoid one ticket and get another. :)

Ashleigh said...

I'm just waiting to get rear-ended by the idiots that follow three feet behind me while I am slamming on my brakes to avoid triggering the almighty camera. Thanks for the info though. I tried looking up info on the exact rules and shockingly (insert sarcastic tone) it is coming up scarce.

And they just banned cell phones here in Albuquerque as well. I predict accidents increase from distacted drivers attempting to connect their Bluetooths to their ear on the freeway. People don't get more intelligent when you ban stupid actions...They find new ones.

Anonymous said...

It's become clear that most (by far) of the money goes to the red-light camera COMPANY, and does nothing whatsoever for the "city" of Albuquerque. There are 2 recently passed NM laws that pertain to these tickets: SB365 and SB861. These should have some impact on the COMPANY's profits! Basically, one says the amount of the ticket must be comparable to the same type of ticket given personally by an officer; the other says the intersections have to have warning signs posted, along with "flashing lights". Best case scenario: the "city" will dump the cameras and cut off the COMPANY's income stream! Thank you Sheriff Greg for the forum.

Sheriff Greg Solano said...

Unfortunately the Governor has Vetoed the bill which would have forced much of the money from Albuquerques Red Light Camera program to go to the state. The Governor has yet to act on the Beacons and warning strips bill.

Anonymous said...

On this red light camera issue...how is it the city can PROVE you were the one driving? I know sometimes it seems different, but New Mexico is still a part of the United States, and a citizen is "innocent until proven guilty". How can the city of Albuquerque so grossly violate our rights and get away with this? Where is the outrage from organizations like the ACLU? This is nothing more than a cash cow for Marty and whatever campaign contributor got the camera contract. One more reason to move the hell out of this state along with my considerable tax dollars.

Anonymous said...

What is the worse that can happen if you don't pay your ticket?

Anonymous said...

What is the worse that can happen if you do not pay the citation?

Sheriff Greg Solano said...

The fines increase and your vehicle can be booted if you do not pay the citations.

Anonymous said...

Red light running is a serious problem and causes many accidents, some of which are fatal. What to people who are against them propose doing to keep people from intentionally running red lights?

Yes, red light cameras are not perfect and work should be done to improve the system, but it would be a serious mistake to ban them.

In some places in Australia, the cameras photograph the front of the car, including the license plate and the face of the driver. That helps to solve driver identity problems. If front license places were required here in NM, AS THEY SHOULD BE, we could do that too.

Nathan said...

Unfortunately, I live in Rio Rancho and can no longer patronize Albuquerque businesses because the city has no due process of law for their red light camera citations. I will not cross into Albuquerque for business, and I encourage others to join me in this, and write letters to those businesses you won't visit any more. If we hit them in the wallets, it will change.

Anonymous said...

I received a first time citation from a red light camera at the intersection of Montgomery and Carlisle. The first time fee was $200.00. I received the fine in the mail the day after (not an exageration) I had sold the car. I did not have the $200.00 since I was out of work to pay the fine. I accessed the city's web-site and to my relief saw that I would be able to perform "community service". Since there is no way to contact ANYONE to ask question I decided to send in the part of the citation and schedule a hearing. I was informed at the hearing that community service is not available and was told that if I did not have the $200.00 I could send in payments. Well the hearing officer was WRONG - you must pay the entire amount. To make a long story short - by the time I could pay the fine I received an additional $400.00 fine. THIS IS REDICULOUS and even though I voted for Martine Chavez in the last election I WILL NOT AGAIN!

Now my husband received a ticket at the very same intersection. His first one and it's $150.00

My point: the city is making much more on these citations than they are claiming.

Signed,
Disgruntled Citizen

Anonymous said...

How is it possible that they did not let you do the community service? I reead online that "community service is now available." Are they lying?
I just got a ticket for making a right hand turn at a red light for $120. I don't remember if I stopped before turning, but I did not know it was the law to stop before u turn if your path was clear. :-( I know ignorance is no excuse, but sometimes laws are stupid. I'm EXTREMELY broke, so $120 sounds like a fortune to me. When I read about the community service option, I got all happy. But now I'm worried after reading your post. :-(

Anonymous said...

I have read a lot of criticism of these cameras. Some of the areras that use this system share revenue with a management company that runs the programs and have in some instances been found to shorten the yellow light to increasse revenues. If true, they and the municipalities should be sued out of existance. That practice seems like it would also cause accidents which could in turn cost lives.

Eyes of Elan said...

I strarted a website at http://www,SpeedSUV.com/ that sends free text and email alerts of the Speed SUV's locations.

I built the site because, the city has not been following the guidelines set forth in the STOP ordinance.

According to the CITY OF SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO ORDINANCE NO. 2009-28, Section 24-4.6 ADMINISTRATION:
"The city shall install advance signal warnings as required by Section 66-7-103.1 NMSA 1978."

And Under NMSA 1978, Section 66-7-103.1:
The city shall provide for all traffic enforcement camera devices: "a warning sign or signs supplemented by a warning beacon or rumble strips."

Thus far I have been photographing the SUV on a weekly basis with nothing but a little sign in front of it... no beacon or rubble strip present. However, after calling Capt. Robin over the last two months with no response, I called the Chiefs office with this dilemma. Also, the city manager has not establish a STOP ombudsman to address and resolve citizen grievances with STOP procedures and technical issues regarding automated enforcement technology.

I have even photographed the speed SUV with no sign at all. Also, 90% of the time I photograph the SUV it is hidden behind a fence or bush or something.

I think the city is operating the Speed SUV as a revenue generator versus a life saving device (which is antithesis to the reason the city legislated photo enforcement in the first place, "TO SAVE LIVES").