Elk Grove Challenged on Red Light Camera Need, Effectiveness

March 25, 2014 | Special to Elk Grove News |  At tomorrow night's meeting, the Elk Grove City Council will be asked to approve...

March 25, 2014 | Special to Elk Grove News

At tomorrow night's meeting, the Elk Grove City Council will be asked to approve a five-year contract extension with RedFlex Traffic Systems, the operator of the city's intersection traffic cameras.

In response to the city's proposed extension, anti-traffic camera advocate Jim Lisner has communicated and requested information from the city regarding the effectiveness of the city's existing system. As part of his advocacy, Lisner operates HighwayRobbery.net  that seeks removal of municipal traffic camera systems.

As part of Elk Grove's proposed contract extension, Lisner has written extensively to council members about the city's system and how other municipalities are dropping contracts with RedFlex. Australia-based Redflex has been besieged in recent months by claims from a former executive that the company has engaged in widespread bribery schemes in at least 13 states including California. 

Recently, the Santa Ana (Calif.) city council voted unanimously to drop that city's contract with RedFlex. That city's finance director is reported to have written "Automated red light camera system revenues have had a minimal impact, of red light activation's only 50 percent are submitted to the court and legislative changes threaten the sustainability of automated red light camera systems."   

In the last week the city of Oakridge, Tenn. also voted to kill its contract with RedFlex. 

Below are copies of recent communications from Lisner to Elk Grove and city officials. 

To lgill@elkgrovecity.orggdavis@elkgrovecity.orgjcooper@elkgrovecity.org and 3 More...


Honorable Councilmembers:

Last week I wrote to you (copy below) about Oakland withholding payment from Redflex.  The issue turns out to be bigger than just Oakland.

As I'm sure you know, contractors doing public works projects are supposed to pay union-like Prevailing Wages to their construction employees.

In California the State's Department of Industrial Relations has ruled that the install work done by camera company subcontractors is to be paid at Prevailing Wage rates.  On their website ( dir dot ca dot gov ) they have a copy of their ruling about Redflex and its work in another city, Hayward.

In addition to the above, and the ongoing bribery scandal, Redflex' past includes an incident where their in-house notary falsely attested to documents which later were used in court. You can read about that, and other transgressions, in an article on the website thenewspaper dot com.  Just put the word notary in the search box.


Jim Lisner

For City staff:  Please distribute this email to all councilmembers, and make it available to the public.


Venue:  Red light cameras, Item 10.1, council meeting of March 26

Honorable Councilmembers: 

On February 25 I wrote to you about this item, which was on the agenda for the next day.  In that email (copy below) I asked you to provide accident statistics, and to give the public some time to review them prior to any hearing.  

Now I see that the staff report prepared for your upcoming meeting says that the accident statistics will be presented during the meeting - which will give the public no useful amount of time to review them.  

Thus I ask you to please delay this item to a later meeting, at least two weeks after the accident statistics have been made available to the public.  The contract does not expire until May, so there is plenty of time to let the public have a look.

Finally, I want to again express my concern that the contract contains no Termination for Convenience ("escape") clause.  Without one, you will be locked into the contract with no quick way out.  Last Tuesday, after the Santa Ana city council voted 7-0 to close their camera program when the contract expires - in June 2015 - Councilmember Vincent Sarmiento commented, "If there was a way to get out of this contract, I'd push for it now," and Councilmember Sal Tinajero  commented, "If it was up to me, I'd get rid of it today." 


Jim Lisner
Pasted below:  Email of Feb. 25
Attached:  Graph 

Previous email -

To City Staff:  Please forward this email to the council and also make it available to the public.


Venue:  Council meeting of Feb. 26, red light cameras

Honorable Mayor and Councilmembers:
There is a lot missing from the staff report.
There are no stats on the change in the rate of accidents in Elk Grove over time, something that is always found in the staff reports in other cities considering the continuation of a red light camera program.
There is no mention of how the tickets were distributed among left turns, through violations, and right turns, but from the bar charts (formal title:  Redflex Redlight Offender Statistics) provided to the public by the EGPD and published on the website highwayrobbery [dot] net, it appears that more than 90% are for right turns.
Visitors to the City are much less likely to have their behavior affected by the presence of cameras – they may not even know that the City has cameras – so it would be useful to know what portion of the tickets are going to visitors.  (Violations by new visitors could explain why the number of violations has plateaued at high levels - see the attached graph.)
There is no discussion of Engineering alternatives to cameras.  They are important, because they do affect the behavior of visitors.  Here are some that are cheap and quick to do, and very effective.
A. Paint "signal ahead" on the pavement. A study sponsored by the Florida DOT found that doing so could cut running by up to 74%.
B. Make the signal lights bigger in diameter or, add another signal head. A study by the Texas Transp. Institute (TTI) found that doing either one could cut crashes by 47%.
C. Add backboards, or larger ones, to the signal heads. The TTI study found that doing so could cut crashes by 32%.
D. Install brighter bulbs in the street lights above the dangerous intersections and put up a lighted name signs for the cross streets.
There is no discussion of the bribery allegations against Redflex.
The staff report should have mentioned that in addition to the closure of the camera programs in Belmont, Burlingame, Berkeley, Emeryville, Fairfield, Hayward, Redwood City, Rocklin, Roseville, San Carlos and Union City, San Rafael will be closing next week.  Further, there is no discussion of the statements made by the authorities in those and other towns, that the cameras made no significant difference.  Those statements are pasted below, for your review.
There is no escape clause ("Termination for Convenience") in the contract, something that is a common component of red light camera contracts when a program is being extended.
The contract does not expire until May.  May I suggest that you ask staff to investigate the ideas above and bring this matter back at a later meeting?  I would also ask that any new discussion of accident stats be provided to the public at least two weeks in advance, so that the public has sufficient time to review the statistics and staff’s conclusions.
Jim Lisner
Attachment:  Graph of violations over time
Pasted below:  Statements by authorities in other towns
cc:  Media
Statements by authorities in other towns
(Direct links to the source documents for the following quotes are at:  highwayrobbery [daht*] net [slash*] redlightcamsdocsIndustryPRMain [daht*] html#Candor )
Riverside (cameras installed in 2006):  "Upon review CalTrans has determined that the accident rates do not warrant the camera systems at any of the five CalTrans locations and has requested their removal."  Riverside Director of Public Works/City Engineer Thomas J. Boyd, in report prepared for Public Safety Committee meeting of 6-18-12, page 2-3. 
More from Riverside:  "It’s impossible to attribute causality to one thing. I don’t know whether and to what degree the red light cameras have contributed to a reduction in traffic crashes."  Chief of Police Sergio Diaz.
More from Riverside:  "I have spoken publicly against the program several times in the past, once before the public safety committee and twice before the entire council. Each time, I expressed my dislike of the general concept of the program, the unethical tactics used to collect fees, inconclusive data regarding their effectiveness and the realization of corporate profits at the expense of our citizens.  My position on these matters has not changed."  Retired 28-year Riverside fire captain, in letter submitted for the Oct. 2, 2012 city council meeting. 
Emeryville (cameras installed in 2004, removed in 2012):  "Staff also analyzed the number of accidents for the same seven year period and found that the red light cameras did not significantly impact the number of accidents."  "Finance has estimated that elimination of the program would result in a $200,000 per year savings to the City."  Chief of Police Ken James, in reports submitted for 5-15-12 city council meeting.
City of Los Angeles (cameras installed in 2000, removed in 2011):  "It was completely wrong."  "It was strictly designed to bring in revenue and didn't do anything for public safety."  Councilmember Dennis Zine, who prior to his twelve years (termed out) on the council served 28 years with the LAPD, 18 years of which was on motors.
San Bernardino (cameras installed in 2005, removed in 2012):  "It was the consensus of the Council that the City has lost business because of the red light cameras and they're not making the City any safer."  Minutes, 1-24-11 city council meeting.
El Monte (cameras installed in 2003, removed in 2008):  "A comparison of traffic collisions at Redflex monitored intersections vs. non-Redflex monitored intersections revealed that there is no statistical difference in the number of traffic collisions because of Redflex monitoring."   Chief of Police Ken Weldon, in memo presented at 10-21-08 council meeting. 
More from El Monte:  "We're spending a lot of staff time on this just to gain $2000 a month." "It doesn't reduce accidents -- that's what our studies and results have come back."  City Manager James W. Mussenden.
Upland (cameras installed in 2003, removed in 2009):  "The system appears to have little influence on the number of red light related collisions at monitored intersections.  At times, rear end collisions have actually increased."  Chief Steve Adams,  in memo presented at 3-9-09 council meeting.
Whittier (cameras installed in 2004, removed in 2010):  "Initially, the red-light program did change behaviors because it did lessen the number of red-light violations but over the long term it didn't appear to lessen the number of injury accidents."  Assistant City Manager Nancy Mendez.
Loma Linda (cameras installed in 2006, removed in 2010):  "I believe these red light cameras are ways for city governments to legally extort money from their citizens."  "The month after we lengthened the yellow light by one second, the number of violations that we have seen dropped by 90 percent."  Mayor Rhodes Rigsby, M.D.
Gardena (cameras installed in 2005, removed in 2011):  "Our research in Gardena has revealed there is no significant traffic safety impact as a result of the use of the red light cameras. At almost every intersection where we have cameras, collisions have remained the same, decreased very slightly, or increased depending on the intersection you examine. When combining the statistics of all the intersections, the overall consensus is that there is not a noticeable safety enhancement to the public."  Chief of Police Edward Medrano, in memo presented at 2-9-10council meeting.
Bell Gardens (cameras installed in 2009, removed in 2012):  "To date, 95% of the funds collected from verifiable violations have been paid to RedFlex Traffic Systems for operating the cameras.  The remaining 5% of funds collected have been utilized to partially offset costs of personnel to manage the system.  The red light camera program has contributed to a moderate decrease in the overall number of accidents; however, no change in the overall number of injury accidents. Furthermore, the police department has recognized unanticipated personnel costs to manage the program.  Based on this analysis, the red light camera program is not significant enough of a community safety benefit to justify the continuation of the program beyond the existing three (3) year agreement term that expires on March 29, 2012."  Staff report presented at 9-26-11 council meeting.
Hayward (cameras installed in 2008, removed in 2013):  "In response to Council Member Zermeño's question for reasons why cities chose to drop out of the Red Light Camera program... City Manager David commented that another reason was the lack of strong evidence in the industry that red light cameras were effective in reducing collisions."  Minutes, 10-11-11 council meeting.
More from Hayward:  “There is no concrete data that supports the fact that red light cameras are supposed to reduce collisions."  “That’s not been our experience here in Hayward. We’ve had much better results with a redeployment of our motor officers. I think that having that personal contact with our community members makes a lasting impression. It’s an opportunity for us to change behavior when it’s wrong versus getting a ticket in the mail 2-4 weeks down the road.”  Hayward Police 


Post a Comment Default Comments


Anonymous said...

Get rid of the cameras.

Most of the money goes to Redflex from what I have heard.

Mad Hatter said...

Envision this if you can at tomorrows meeting:

Bob Trigg: I want to thanks staff for their help on this matter.

Cooper : I moved here 25 years ago because it was safe and these red lights keep us safe.

Detrick: My son represented the United States in Australia and RedFlex sponsored him, so I think this is a good project. Enough of you armchair quarterbacks too!

Hume: I'm telling you, we can't get more businesses to town until we build more rooftops and these camera will bring more rooftops.

Davis: I'm laser-focused on this so we can really become a destination city. These traffic camera will bring NASCAR to town. We'll be the only city left in California with a Redflex contract and people can be directed to all the cameras in town on the wayfinding signs!

Redflex 1, citizens - ZERO.

Anonymous said...

The camera at Bond and EG-Florin is a safety hazard and needs to be removed. The flash is so bright that even during the day it distracts drivers that have the right of way. There have been times at night that it has caused me to swerve thinking I was about to be hit by something and this occures if a car stops just over the sensor not only when a driver runs a red light.

U-Haul said...

Agree with poster above. And, when traveling westbound on Bond approaching the intersection at night, the Jack in the Box parking lot lights are so bright, they are glaring directly into your eyes as you cross the tracks and approach the signals. But this is a pro-business town that lets banners, illegal advertising signs, flags, and and anything else go. Did anyone get a load of those stupid looking helium balloons over the auto mall last weekend? Must of been about 60 of them hovering about 250 feet high--woulda made Mary Poppins proud!

Anonymous said...

He lost me at "Honorable Councilmembers".

Anonymous said...

Its funny you mention the light on Bond and Elk Florin. I live off emerald vista and walk my dog at night and can see the flash from there, and then I think cha ching in the city's pocket.

Anonymous said...

To Mad Hatter:
You made me laugh...our council is so predictable, it is laughable. Thanks for the afternoon smile....

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