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January 4, 2011 > LA board gives red-light cameras green light

LA board gives red-light cameras green light

Submitted By AP Wire Service

LOS ANGELES (AP), Dec 14 - The civilian board that oversees the Los Angeles police department agreed unanimously on Tuesday to keep a red-light camera program despite its low ticket-collection rate.

The five members of the Police Commission found that even though 77 percent of citations issued last year have gone uncollected, the 4-year-old program was effective in reducing traffic collisions at the 32 city intersections where the cameras are installed.

``This program should not be viewed as a profit generator,'' Commission President John Mack said. ``The point is public safety, the point is to save people's lives.''

A September audit questioned the effectiveness of the program, finding that since the program began in April 2006, about 56,000 citations worth more than $7 million in potential revenue for the city remain tied up in court.

Police blame Los Angeles County Superior Court for not aggressively going after drivers who were cited for running a red light or making right turns on a red light. Department officials said they urged the court to notify the state Department of Motor Vehicles to place a hold on the drivers licenses of violators who fail to pay their tickets, but the court has refused to intervene.

Deputy Police Chief Michel Moore said court officials felt that such a hold, which would prevent drivers from renewing their licenses until they resolve their tickets, would be ``arbitrary and too harsh.''

``They do not want to inconvenience the motorist that may not be the actual violator, that may simply be the registered owner and somebody else was driving the vehicle,'' Moore said.

He said he was hopeful that the court will reconsider.

``But at the end of the day, the department's concern is not in the cost neutrality or the profit that might be gained by this system, but rather the cost effectiveness in terms of improving traffic safety,'' he said.

Mary Hearn, a court spokeswoman, said the court does alert collection agencies when violators don't pay in a timely manner, but it doesn't request the DMV holds because the notification isn't mandated by state law.

It costs about $3.9 million each year to run the cameras and hire officers to review video of red-light violations and issue citations.

Police said red-light related traffic collisions at the 32 intersections have dropped by 63 percent, and that no one died since the cameras came on at those intersections, which saw a total of five deaths in the two years before the surveillance began.

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