Monday, May 13, 2013

Murfreesboro C.A.P.E to the Murfreesboro Post

In response to the recent Murfreesboro Post article by Jonathan Fagan.

Your recent article concerning the City’s red light camera system was not exactly accurate and more than a little biased.

Here are the facts:

According to the Chief of Police’s report, the total number of crashes (of all types) between 2008 and 2012 has declined 11% per year on average. However, the number of crashes seen at camera enforced intersections has only fallen 1.1% per year on average.  This clearly shows that the camera enforcement system is not working as expected.

Furthermore, side-angle crashes at enforced intersections have decline 32% since 2008, while the decline at all intersections has dropped 42%. The overall trend is a decline in intersection crashes unrelated to the camera system.  In fact, between 2011-12 side angle crashes at camera enforced intersections rose 37.15% compared to a decline of 42.1% at all intersections.

TCA 55-8-198 (and related sections) makes it plain that a violator who does not pay their fine will not have their failure to pay noted on either their driver’s license record or their credit report. Councilman Smotherman’s point was simple – the law, as written, lacks teeth and in reality any driver may simply ignore their citations and the City is without recourse to force them to pay.  Additionally, the system sets up two different punishments for the same crime, a potential violation of the Equal Protection clause.

Consider this:  An individual runs a red light and is caught by the camera system.  They are issued a citation and refuse to pay it (as 70% of those cited do). The violation does not appear on their record and even the collection agency is prohibited from listing a payment failure on their credit report.
Another individual runs a red light and is caught by a physical police officer, they are cited and any failure to pay can result in arrest. The citation itself is also noted on their driving record.

American Traffic Solutions receives 50% of the citation fee which, since 2008, amounts to $1.87 million which has left our community and gone to an out-of-state company. On top of this, the City budget lists that the operation of the red light camera system costs the taxpayers $740,000/yr or $2.2 million since 2010. And while Mayor Bragg has insisted that safety is their main concern, ATS specifically states that their systems are geared toward providing a revenue source for municipalities. 

The videos shown of intersection accidents are a prime example of why the red light camera system fails to offer safety. The offending drivers were not simply running a red light; they were driving incredibly recklessly, were drunk and showed no regard for the safety of others. The threat of being caught on camera is hardly a sufficient deterrence. If there was a police officer watching the intersection, in person, they could have apprehended the driver then and there and prevented any further accidents down the road. As the system stands, the drunk driver could continue on for miles before a police officer catches up to them. 

ATS, a private company, is doing the work of the police and yet is free from any oversight. No one knows how long they keep the day-to-day video they capture, nor do we know if they sell the information they receive or if their systems are protected from computer attacks. Seven states have banned the use of these camera systems and numerous cities have removed them from their streets. On top of that, courts in California and Missouri have ruled against these systems, citing for one thing - a major conflict of interest. We at Murfreesboro C.A.P.E are committed to having these cameras taken down and to return the running of our city, and its agencies, back to the citizens of Murfreesboro. 

-- Jacob Bogle
Murfreesboro C.A.P.E (Citizens Against Photo Enforcement) 

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