Police commission votes to turn off red light cameras

The Los Angeles Police Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to reject a new contract the LAPD wants with the firm that runs the city's 32 red light cameras. The City Council could step in to strip the commission of its authority, says the Times. There's the question of whether the cameras are fair, whether they mostly catch right-turn violators, and what happens to the tickets.

Instead of discussing the merits of that company’s service over others, however, commissioners returned to a long-running debate over the cameras that has played out at several meetings in recent months and focused on the basic questions of whether they do any good and are cost effective. Throughout, police officials have argued that the cameras have led to a significant decrease in the number of traffic accidents and fatalities at the intersections.

Those claims were looked at with skepticism by members of the commission, who also questioned the legitimacy of the tickets that are issued to drivers captured by the cameras running red lights. Since local courts do not pursue people who refuse to pay the tickets, which typically run more than $400, the camera program essentially was a "voluntary citation program. There’s no teeth in it, no enforcement," said Commissioner Alan Skobin.

In light of the court’s position on the camera-issued tickets, Skobin questioned the LAPD’s practice of sending unpaid tickets to a collection agency.

"We have to ask, what is the benefit to the public? What is the downside?" said Commissioner Debra Wong Yang. “And I’m not convinced from looking at the numbers that these cameras work."

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