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March 6, 2012 > Letter to the Editor: Hayward Police reallocate resources to snitch tickets

Letter to the Editor: Hayward Police reallocate resources to snitch tickets

Hayward's Chief of Police, Diane Urban, has laid out her plans to reallocate resources in the enforcement of red light camera tickets. In an Oct. 11, 2011 memo to the Mayor and City Council she says that she plans to make a concerted effort to try to identify previously unidentified drivers of vehicles who had been captured on camera running red lights in Hayward.

Chief Urban says that in an average month, Hayward processes about 1,500 photo enforced violations but only 500 actual citations are initially issued. Another 300 are rejected with no further action. The remaining 700 or so receive a notice commonly called a "snitch ticket." These are notices mailed to registered owners asking them to name the driver.

The notices have no legal weight and can be disregarded since there is no obligation on the part of the owner to "snitch" but these notices have been very successful. About two-thirds are returned and actual citations are then issued to those "nominated." Amazingly, spouses snitch on each other even though the now $530 fine impacts the household budget. Likewise parents submit the name and driver's license number of their children who were driving the family car. Employers who own the vehicle in question write down the actual driver's name even though that may mean increased insurance premiums to the company. Some people even write their own names down and are therefore issued a real ticket.

But, in an average month, about 250 of these notices are not returned. These unreturned snitch tickets are going to receive additional scrutiny under Chief Urban's plan. Urban will reassign one sworn officer to regular patrol and replace that officer with a Community Service Officer. About 60 hours per month will be devoted to tracking down and identifying these 250 drivers. The goal is to issue 100 real citations to this group of 250. The city, on average, will earn an increase in net revenue of $17,000 per month; from $10,000 per month to $27,000 per month. This is the net income to the city after paying Redflex, the Australian camera vendor, over $55,000 per month.

Revenue from the red light camera program had been declining. This program seeks to boost revenue in order to keep the program in the profit column.

Opponents of red light camera programs contend the programs are more about revenue and not about safety. Chief Urban adds in her memo to the Council:

There are studies that show that red light cameras do in fact reduce the number of collisions; however, the Hayward Police Department has not been able to gather sufficient data to support this conclusion.

Urban said she will produce a progress report after six months.

Roger Jones

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