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October 25, 2014

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Police renewing push for red-light cameras

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Kyle Ellis / Las Vegas Sun

Sgt. Tim Bedwell

Sgt. Tim Bedwell

The North Las Vegas Police Department has long felt hamstrung in trying to implement a tool that it is confident would save lives. Since 2005, the department has lobbied the state Legislature for permission to post cameras at traffic signals to catch motorists who run red lights.

Police argue that these red-light cameras would prompt motorists to slow down versus speed up when the lights turn yellow, and want permission to conduct a pilot project to learn if that would happen in their city.

But the Legislature, which banned red-light cameras in 1999, has always said no.

With the upcoming legislative session, North Las Vegas police are considering another lobbying push for the pilot project. This time, they may be more emboldened in their efforts.

For starters, a national study convincingly shows that red-light cameras are cutting down on intersection deaths. And for the first time, a state agency — no less than the Nevada Transportation Department — wants the camera ban repealed.

“These fatalities (when running red lights) are an epidemic ... the No. 1 killer for young adults in this country,” said Chuck Reider, director of the Transportation Department’s safety division that is pushing for the bill, AB34.

“That’s why this bill is important.”

The use of red-light cameras has proliferated across the nation, from New York City to Los Angeles. But Nevada lawmakers have denounced these devices as government overreach and a cash cow for municipalities.

To debunk camera detractors, North Las Vegas police have lobbied state lawmakers to place red-light cameras at a few intersections to study their effectiveness.

“We as police officers know the carnage caused by these left turns and T-bones,” North Las Vegas police spokesman Sgt. Tim Bedwell said. “We see it every day, and know how dangerous (red light running) is. If we can bring in a (camera) study that shows results, we can get support from legislators.”

Buttressing the argument for cameras is a study released this week by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which conducted the first nationwide study of red-light fatalities.

The nonprofit group studied 62 cities with populations of more than 200,000, comparing those with red-light cameras with those without. It concluded that cameras have saved hundreds of lives.

Traffic fatalities in 14 cities with red-light cameras fell by 35 percent between the five-year periods 1992-96 and 2004-08, according to the survey. The rate dropped by 14 percent in 48 cities without the cameras.

Researchers estimated that had cameras been operating during the 2004-08 time period in all large cities, 815 deaths could have been prevented.

“The evidence is overwhelming that red-light cameras are effective in making intersections safer,” said Russ Rader, the insurance institute spokesman. “Cities pushing through the controversy to implement camera programs are saving lives. They are making a difference.”

North Las Vegas, Henderson and Metro Police departments say the cameras cause drivers to slow down at yellow lights versus racing through them.

“These cameras are a plus,” Metro Sgt. Richard Strader of the traffic bureau’s fatal detail said. “They work all around the country. Why not here?”

Reider said he hopes repealing the ban on enforcement cameras would prompt a change in driving habits just as laws have reduced smoking and drunken driving.

“Running a red light is no longer acceptable,” he said. “Red-light cameras are an important piece of the puzzle.”

Camera critics cite concerns over privacy and contend that municipalities really want to use the cameras to generate revenue. Others argue red-light cameras infringe upon their due process.

Chad Dornsife, executive director of Best Highway Safety Practices Institute, complains that because violators are identified by cameras, there is a presumption of guilt and no chance for the motorist to confront his accuser. The nonprofit group has lobbied against red-light cameras in Nevada since the issue first arose in the 1990s.

“We feel (the cameras) are illegal and unconstitutional,” he said. “These cameras turn Nevada into a police state. It’s a fraud at best and criminal at worst.”

Answers Bedwell: “It’s really frustrating for us when we hear people arguing about privacy when there are already a lot of cameras in Las Vegas.”

For cash-strapped cities such as North Las Vegas, the red-light cameras would allow officers to focus more of their efforts on non-traffic-related crimes rather than positioning themselves at intersections.

For the past several years, Las Vegas Valley police officers have participated in Joining Forces, a federal grant program that allows smaller municipalities to work together on specific days to implement speed traps, DUI stops and red-light violators.

“We can’t afford more law enforcement so we need to free up the officers that we have to catch the bad guys,” said Erin Breen, director of UNLV’s Safe Community Partnership. “I hope (legislators) take an honest look at the problem and solutions.

“This bill is a viable solution to the red-light problem. It’s gotten out of control in Clark County.”

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  1. One such camera could easily rack up $20,000/month in fines at an average intersection. This would also help insurance companies boost their bottom lines by justifying higher rates.

  2. The only reason I can think of as to why any good citizen would oppose this is their concern they would have to explain to wife or husband who that person riding in the car with them was, in non-business situations. Beyond that, I can think of no good reason to oppose.

  3. They got rid of a lot of cameras in Arizona. (a guy operating a speed enforcement camera was shot and killed)

    Just a money maker for a bunch of corrupt cops that want to party in Arizona at taxpayer expense. Good time to cut back on Metro's budget, in fact all law enforcement agencies should be cut back.

  4. I am all for (Red Light Camera's) I do not think the fines should be paid for in monies. I feel the fines should be absolved by performing community services to help others no matter what position you hold in life. This would eliminate some beuaracratic policians financial gain. It would serve the same purpose and allow no one to gain financially or buy their way out. Everyone would be treated in same manner.

  5. For those worried about government using the cameras as a funding source, then why not turn it around? Ticket and fine those who run the red light, but for everyone who does propery stop and obey the light, they get put into a lottery for that month. As many $1000 winners get drawn as the fine fund can support.

    It's not always enough to punish people for bad decisions - look at our overcrowded prison system. Perhaps if you offer a financial incentive to do what's right, they'll be more inclined to follow the laws.

  6. When you are stopped at any Red Light in Clark County, take a minute and look UP! There are already camera's at each and every light in this county.

    If you are concerned about getting a ticket, don't run the red lights.

    If you are worried about being spied on, to late, the camera's have been there for years and are not going away.

    To many of you are trying to close the barn door after the horse has already left the building! ;-)

  7. For all those people who say the US Constitution does not permit health care, where then does it permit the monitoring intersections with cameras?

    Computer controlled monitoring and automatic fee assessment is the most economical way to produce extra cash to for overtime, sick pay and hiring of family members for city jobs. If successful, these monitory requirements can be expanded for any purpose deemed in the interest of 'public safety'.

    The Patriot Act is going to need many cameras around the City. Intersections are first, streets and highways next. First it's the red light, then it's lane changes without signaling, then speed violations and who knows what next.

    The Patriot Act allows the Government to open your mail, monitor phone conversations without warrants to "make America Safe", but for what? Fascism? Hello Fatherland, goodbye America.

  8. In Seattle, signal cameras were installed at a number of intersection in the downtown area. Many were removed after a short period of time due to drivers avoiding the areas with signal cameras. The real reason was that store owners complained their businesses were effected because people avoided their streets. A number of small cities who also tried the signal cameras in the Seattle area were effected the same way.

    That being said, as a local citizen, the insane way people drive in LV makes me want the cameras no matter how it effects business. To bad they don't have one for speeders too.

    Somehow if actually installed, I believe the ticketing will only be enforced on local citizens. We wouldn't want anything to off-set the tourist/casino attendance dollars.

  9. "The use of red-light cameras has proliferated across the nation, from New York City to Los Angeles. But Nevada lawmakers have denounced these devices as government overreach and a cash cow for municipalities."

    And so on. I read somewhere San Diego had to take theirs down and pay big settlements to those ticketed. The main reason was their red light camera system wasn't owned by the city, it was under contract to a private firm. And under its control at key intersections the yellow light times were shortened for the purpose of generating revenue, since the contractor got a piece of the action.

    Although municipalities and their police like NLV cry safety it's really more about revenue. Like nearly all police traffic enforcement.

    I will be contacting my legislators to oppose AB34. I urge the rest of you as concerned citizens, regardless of what side you're on, to do the same.

    dipstick -- I'm with you on your valid posted concerns.

    mred -- good point on cutting back police budgets. That may just be the only sure way We can control them.

    gmag39 -- excellent links!

    From what I've seen, in most traffic courts the rules of evidence are completely disregarded to ensure that "cash cow for municipalities" continues to graze on We the People undisturbed. Like speed measuring devices, there's a problem with admissibility for authentication and hearsay. The forms the police use with these autotickets put the burden of proof on the accused to prove their innocence. This brings us back to the legalities to when the Crown ruled the colonies -- this republic's founders made it clear that part of the law is adversarial, not inquisitorial. Funny how government now acts more like the Crown than as being instituted secure our liberties and administer justice accordingly.

    "The only thing new in the world is the history you don't know." -- President Harry Truman

  10. Chunky says:

    He thought the third-party operated speed trap camera program in Arizona was shut down last July?

    Chunky is all about traffic safety but not such a fan of a new government bureaucracy or the government having more cameras on us law abiding citizens.

    Would the cops and other government employees mind if "We The People" had 24/7 live web-fed cameras sitting in their offices, work areas, break rooms and cars; cameras we can simply watch them via the Internet any time we want to see if they are wasting our tax dollars or acting inappropriately?

    At what point will, insurers, lawyers etc begin to lobby for access or freedom of "information" to use that technology against us?

    How about pulling over some of the distracted drivers on cellphones and texting!

    It is a slippery slope!

    That's what Chunky thinks!

  11. Traffic cameras are flawed, if only because they target vehicles and not drivers. Camera-enforcement of traffic laws is just another example of lazy revenue enhancement that does nothing -- nothing -- to make driving safer. Some of you out there think that if you ban things you don't like (cel phones) and set up cameras to catch people who "don't drive like you" (ha!), everything about driving will be better. It will not, if for nothing else than even you folks are missing the real point: The driver is the flaw.

    If you want to make driving safer, require annual in-car refresher courses and testing for every driver that actually teaches and measure real driving skill, charge a real annual fee for licenses ($1000?), and enforce all existing traffic laws equally (including Impeding Flow of Traffic). Then maybe we can have traffic enforcement like they do in Germany, and open-speed highways as well.

    Good thing that traffic cameras only work if your license plate is readable by the camera. A simple Internet search solves that problem.

  12. "Would the cops and other government employees mind if..."

    Chunky -- normally I ignore your usual third person rambles, but you've hit a home run right out of the ballpark with this one. It is indeed a "slippery slope"! What too many forget is who's really in charge here, and since We the People have exactly the government We allow to exist, that's quite doable. All We have got to do is take the time and trouble to make it happen -- maybe castrate this bill with an amendment for fulltime internet cameras in all North Las Vegas offices and on the dash of every city vehicle. And the URL prominently displayed on everything with that city's name on it!

    "...you folks are missing the real point: The driver is the flaw."

    James_P -- another excellent post with excellent points. I do take issue with you on traffic cameras and reading plates.

    Last year I helped a friend with her speed camera case in another state. The issue we focused on was the speed camera pictures could not even show her gender, let alone her identity. The case was dismissed when the supervising officer was confronted with that fact and the city's own evidence.

    Although I've noticed what a problem Vegas has with red light runners -- to the point I look both ways before starting into a new green light -- we must ALL resist the growing Big Brother police state.

    "Is this 1984, or what?" -- the Honorable Alex Kozinski, now chief judge of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in the Unabomber case

  13. I haven't checked the Nevada code in detail, but in California the law is written such that it says it is prohibited to ENTER an intersection once the light has turned red, but you *must* exit the intersection if it turns red while you are in it. That is one reason why you see so many people finish a left turn on a red light.

    If Nevada law reads the same, then the red light cameras would have to take that into account by clearing showing the car entering the intersection after the light changed.

    I agree that having these cameras would provide incentive to tinker with the yellow light time settings, potentially raising the risk factors.

  14. Everyone who is IN FAVOR of the red light cameras;
    GOOGLE "red light camera problems" or somesuch...
    Those of you advocating for them because you think they're the cat's meow... please, educate yourselves. MANY LOCATIONS around the country that have HAD THESE CAMERAS have run into some HUGE PROBLEMS!
    Believe me, I'm in favor of improving the SAFETY of the valley roadways, but this is frought with PROBLEMS.

    Here's a novel idea:
    How about having METRO follow traffic laws, and TAG PEOPLE WHO DON'T?
    When was the last time, (if ever) you've seen someone do something stupid, including running a RED LIGHT, get pulled over???

  15. In Washington D.C. they started short-cycling the lights plus going to shorter yellows to increase their income. They even have a light in mid-block without an intersection that takes in hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. There are also statistics showing cameras cause More accidents by drivers slamming on their brakes when lights turn yellow. Just another money racket by a Police Force that must pay out millions in fines for lawsuits where they overstepped their authority.

  16. Hello meet a guy that didn't like cameras. We wouldn't have any one like this in Nevada would we.

    http://www.myfoxphoenix.com/dpp/news/loc...

  17. KillerB, I don't think you disagree with me. My point was that unless that traffic camera can read a license plate, it cannot issue a ticket. There are simple ways to keep a traffic camera from reading a plate. Certainly, if the camera correctly identified the car but there is no clear identity of the driver, the result is the same: Dismissed!

  18. North Las Vegas are using the excuse that the Red Light Cameras would save lives. Sounds reasonable on the surface. How many lives have been lost in North Las Vegas because someone ran a red light in the last year, two years, three years, and on up to five years. Was running the red light the only cause of the accident (s) that lost lives? Accidents that involved drugs and alcholol should count in this as the person(s) would most likely have run the red lights anyway. This sounds more like an excuse to increase revenue so that North Las Vegas will have more money to save police jobs rather than public safety.
    If they convince the Legislature to approve the Cameras, the Legislature should set strict guidlines that no contract can be made where the contractor either gets an amount for each ticket and a contractor can not receive or have any legal authority to issue tickets or collect a percentage of each ticket given. No contractor can be given information as to the license holder or vehicle registration. The contractor can not maintain or keep a file of any pictures the camera takes. It would be required to turn all pictures over to the police department and the police department would be required to identify the driver of the vehicle before a ticket could be issued. Tickets would have to be mailed to the driver of the vehicle. If the ticket is mailed to the vehicle owner and they state in court that they were not driving at the time and the picture doesn't show them, the police would be required to prove it was the owner that was the driver. If they can't, then the North Las Vegas Police should be requried to pay the defendent the amount that would be court costs plus the amount that the ticket would have cost. That way, the public will be protected from over reaching false information.

  19. Why? have a pilot program to have a study when you are already presenting data from other studies, Unless this is the crack in the door to grow government even larger, And I would go for the GPS and Dash cams long before theses Cameras it's a win win here the police will also be on tape as to where they are or what they are doing.

  20. I can see it now some crackhead is going to break up with his girlfriend and he drives their car through a few lights knowing she will get the tickets....... You gotta love it....... It will probable increase domestic calls.

  21. How about pointing the cameras at areas where graffiti is rampant and catch some real criminals. Oh yeah, your typical tagger probably doesn't have the means to pay, and probably already owes on previous warrants. I'm not in favor of anyone running red lights or breaking traffic laws, but it seems the driving public is being used as a source for revenue these days. Some cities (Bakersfield, Ca) are using "undercover" officers at crosswalks, and if a driver doesn't stop to let them cross, there is a motorcycle officer up ahead to write them a ticket. Pure entrapment all the way by "creating" violations, rather than catching the easy to find "real" offenders out there.
    A red light camera ticket here is about $470. (a week's take home pay for the average citizen). The contractor gets a very large chunk of that. There are 8 camera intersections here. I've never been ticketed by one, but I know a few who have. They also issure a cell phone ticket ($120) if the driver in the picture is on the phone.

  22. besafe, In 1974, there was a federally mandated system on most cars that did not allow you to start a car until you buckled up (just as you hve suggested). There were sensors in the seats. (for some reason, my 1974 VW didn't have this feature, but most other cars did). Of course, people who put their groceries, etc. on the seat in the car had to buckle them in, and the law went away after a year or 2. In the late 1980's for a few years cars had automatic seatbelts, or belts attached to the door so they were always buckled. Again, a short lived feature. My 1990 VW Passat had automatic shoulder belts, but you still had to buckle the lap belt manually. This was all before airbags became standard.

  23. I think the reason a lot of people run the red lights at intersections around town is because of the length of the cycle these lights take to change..At some of these intersections you can stop at a light and put it in park and run across to Smiths and buy some groceries and get back in your car before the light turns green..Even at night when traffic is light they still have extreme waits..Just a thought..

  24. > There are already camera's at each and every light in this county.

    wrong --- like a good many comments on this story (do folks not read --- or worse read and not able to properly sequence the information).

    those devices on traffic lights change the lights to the direction of on-coming emergency equipment. fire trucks, ambulances and even the metro cars. nothing sinister.

    the real problems with red light cameras are: 1) the companies that run them (for a cut of the profits) can and do dick with the timing of when they snap the photos of the alleged crime. need more money? cut the timing down so that a fresh yellow becomes a red light --- and 2) a marked increase in rear end collisions from people fearing getting a ticket and slamming on their brakes.

    here's an idea --- take half the undercover cars and paint them up. more presence will slow the activity --- sure, some cops lose the benefit of having a nice vanilla car to drive around while off duty but if this is about safety then it's a small price to pay.

  25. Red light cameras are a great idea as it will free-up Las Vegas Police officers to do more important cop activities like driving to Kingman, AZ . . .

  26. The government works FOR US. Or at least, it should. It has instead become an unmanageable blackhole of our money and demands even more. That is the only reason for these cameras. Keep it up North Las Vegas. You saw what happened in Egypt. How far away from that do you think the American public is?? We are SICK of government infringing upon and intruding into our lives.