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April 27, 2015

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Law enforcement considering another push for red-light cameras

Sgt. Tim Bedwell

Sgt. Tim Bedwell

The North Las Vegas Police Department is considering again lobbying the state legislature to conduct a study on red-light cameras following the release Tuesday of the first definitive study on the use of the controversial cameras.

The national study, released Tuesday by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, looked at 99 cities with populations of more than 200,000, comparing those with red-light cameras to those without.

Researchers determined that the 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 to 1996 and 2004 to 2008, according to the survey. Although the rate also dropped in the 48 cities without the cameras during that same time period, it only declined by 14 percent.

The study also said that had cameras been operating during the 2004 to 2008 time period in all large cities, a total of 815 deaths would have been prevented.

Those critical of the cameras cite concerns over privacy and of the revenue streams tied to them. But police departments nationwide have cited positive changes in driver behavior — slowing down and not racing through yellow lights — in coming out in favor of the cameras.

“This is truly empirical data,” North Las Vegas spokesman Sgt. Tim Bedwell said. “We as police officers know the carnage caused by these left turns (on red) and T-bones...We see it every day and know how dangerous it is.”

Red-light cameras have been a contentious issue for North Las Vegas Police. Alarmed by the number of accidents caused by cars running red lights, the department has lobbied state lawmakers to place red-light cameras at a handful of city intersections as part of a pilot program.

Both the Metro and Henderson police departments supported the legislation, Bedwell said, but because it was a study, the smallest of the three cities — North Las Vegas — was chosen to carry the project through.

The cameras would allow the city to collect data that officials hope would convince lawmakers to allow police to use cameras to issue traffic citations. A state law passed in 1999 prohibits traffic cameras for tickets.

To commission a study, North Las Vegas has asked lawmakers to make an exception to the law each legislative session since 2005. Each time, it failed.

“These kind of studies dispute the sort of arguments against red-light cameras,” Bedwell said. “If we can bring in a study that shows similar results, we can get support from (state) legislators (to change the law).”

In Nevada, red light violations are criminal misdemeanors, necessitating proof beyond reasonable doubt. In neighboring states, such as Arizona, which has implemented red-light cameras, the violations are considered petty crimes, requiring only probable cause.

Because running a red light is a misdemeanor in Nevada, opponents argue red-light cameras infringe upon due process. There is a presumption of guilt, said Chad Dornsife, executive director of Best Highway Safety Practices Institute, and there is no chance to confront your accuser when it is a camera.

“You can’t deny someone due process,” he said. “We feel (the cameras) are illegal and unconstitutional.”

The nonprofit group has lobbied against red-light cameras in Nevada since the issue first came to light in the 1990s, raising privacy concerns and questions about the revenue stream from red-light camera tickets.

“These cameras turn Nevada into a police state,” Dornsife said. “It’s a fraud at best and criminal at worst.”

“It’s really frustrating for us when we hear people arguing about privacy when there are already a lot of cameras in Las Vegas,” Bedwell said. “We want something that’s revenue neutral, or the public is not going to buy (the camera program) and shut it down.”

The Department of Transportation already is scheduled to introduce a bill in committee to repeal the state law banning the use of cameras for issuing traffic citations. Dornsife said he plans to fight it.

“It’s bad PR for a tourist state,” he said. “It’s short-sighted and ill-advised.”

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  1. It's long established that one has "no expectation of privacy" in public areas, so I see no problem with "red-light" cameras. Something must be done to control the crazies we have misusing the driving priviledge and endangering us all. The reckless conduct is so pervasive that I routinely see drivers of vehicles with out-of-state-plates driving like maniacs because they believe there is no limits on how fast they can go, if they tailgate or weave in and out of traffic. It's got to be stopped!

  2. Does this mean the cops will actually fight crime? Or will I see the same cops hiding out in residential neighborhoods making sure there are no california rolls at the four way stops at 3am.

  3. Commenters are so busy riffing on the cops, they are missing the most important question on this issue: Due process. It's not about stopping red light runners, we'd all like that to stop.

    If they make an exception in enforcing this criminal infraction, where does the slippery slope end? This is HUGE.

  4. Due process? Give me a break. The camera is the best witness. The violator won't be able to argue what was seen or attack the officer. If they can show the camera was distracted and only observed part of the violation, so be it. No privacy concerns when you are in the public eye. We need cameras everywhere.

  5. I believe the main purpose behind this camera issue is MONEY. The cameras not going stop some drunk from running a red light and killing someone. What's the next step after red light cameras? You know their going to come up with some other reason to put up more cameras. Where will it stop? I say no to red light cameras. There's a super small chance of me being a victim of their being no red light camera. I'll take my chances without them.

    He who sacrifices freedom for security deserves neither
    Benjamin Franklin

  6. "there is no chance to confront your accuser when it is a camera."

    What is really being said with that statement is there is no real chance to lie about the fact you ran the red light. There is "proof beyond reasonable doubt" when it is a photo.

    I live on a corner that has stop signs. I watch 30+ people each day drive though the stop sign. Not even slow down. A couple times a year there are accidents at this corner with some of them ending up in my block wall.

    I now have security camera's on my home and some of them show the stop sign and corner. Insurance companies no longer argue about "who" is going to pay for my block wall the last two times. ;-)

  7. It's hard to trust N LV when it has such a long history of traffic entrapment, and police abuse setting up people, changing signs and speed limits, creating slow zones such as the one near the dump where there is one speed at the top of the hill and the speed changes in the middle of the hill. Just past that sign is often 10-20 cops are sitting there lined up to right tickets and just past them the speed returns to normal.

    It's a scam and dishonest and encourages people to mistrust the police. The cameras do more than monitor red lights and they are left on all the time. I've known officers to admit that people watch them to just spy on people fro entertainment in many cities, that officers and staff use them to spy on neighbors they don't like or spouses they think are cheating.

    It removes the right to travel and conduct business without being monitors, there may be not presumption of privacy in the public space but their is also not supposed to be a presumption of being spied on, monitors, and tracked either and thats just what happens the more of these and other cameras go up.

    Yet crime does not go down, and some studies have shown that accidents have not while other studies claim they do. SOme studies claim the reductions in accidents is temporary and some studies have shown that just placing dummy cameras up slows traffic too.

    There just is not a enough clear information and no tools in place to ensure abuse does not happen.

  8. Unfortunately, the red light cameras, as well as a lot of traffic enforcement has becoume merely a source of "revenue enhancement" (money!). In Bakersfield, a red light ticket is between $400-500. They gave out about 7500 tickets last year. (no, I've never had one). I do know that the bulk of that money goes to the company that installed the cameras. I'm for enforcement of the laws, but in this day where a "10 over the limit" (50 in a 40) costs you $300 (plus possible insurance surcharges), it's gotten out of hand. I'm all for the enforcement of obvious violations, a person may not know they are going a little fast (especially if everyone else is), but a rolling stop or talking on the cell phone, etc. is knowingly violating (here in California), and you see that all the time. I imagine in time, nearly every light will have the camera, and they will have "speed cameras" (like Arizona) as well. Most of us try to stay within the law, and eventually get a ticket for some minor infraction that we're not necissarily realizing were "violating" (usually a radar ticket for 10-12 over). All I sak is that more attention be paid to the obvious violators and the really excessive speeders (someone going 25 over knows they're speeding), and keep up the good work on DUI checkpoints!
    Jerry, I'm all for ticketing the "California roll" at any stop sign, at any time of the day or night, "stop" means stop. (check any DMV rule book) you once "admonished" me for not knowing the meaning of "Palazzo", but I do know the meaning of "stop".

  9. are you sure that was me? or maybe the Fink? I don't know what "Palazzo" means, but I do know where to find one in Las Vegas.

  10. and show me a cop that doesn't California roll, and I'll agree it's cool to ticket everyone that does it.

  11. and the point was that I believe cops should be patroling neighborhoods, not trolling 4 way stops.

  12. When did we become indentured servants to OUR government?
    They use fear to pass laws that make us pay MORE of our hard earned money. They want us to believe that if we don't have cameras that we will all die from accidents. Accidents happen, we can't legislate that fact away.
    Our government is no longer working for us. We are working for the government. NLV Police, you work for me. I say NO to cameras. If you don't want to get out of your patrol car and write a ticket, then get another job.

  13. Jerry, maybe it was another Jerry, sorry for the mistake. I agree they should be patroling, I'd like to see them stake out places that get a lot of graffiti and catch the little hoodlums.....but I guess "catching" some scofflaw going 10 over on their way to work, with a radar gun, is more "cost effective". They can make 200-300 on each ticket. I also think maybe any speed less that 15 mph over should be a simple $5 per mph over, (with no points or need for "traffic school") except in school zones, etc. where I have no problem with stringent enforcement. Make it more cost effective to go after the major violators (there's plenty) and not so devastating to one who might lose several days pay because they were "a little over" and may not even realize they were (until the red light is in their mirror).
    In California if you "contest" the ticket, it's about a 6 month wait for a court date. Personally, I think everyone should ask for a court trial and back the system up even more.
    Trust me Jerry, we're on the same page. See you out on the road!
    I'm very pro law enforcement, but the cost of traffic enforcement to the public for minor violations is exhorbitant, and going higher (to balance the budget).
    Meanwhile, I'll just do my very best to not go over the limit, and the people behind me can go right ahead and be upset about me going 40 in a 40 zone. (maybe they'll nab them for tailgating!).

  14. One more thing, there was a similar article in the Bakersfield Californian (our local paper) today, and it mentioned that Bakersfield was one of 2 "camera" cities in the study that traffic deaths were actually up in the study (the other being Raliegh N.C.). A local drunk fireman (in his personal vehicle) was just convicted for running a red light (while DUI)and killing a lady. This drunk would have run the light, camera or not (it was not at a camera intersection). They hafe also increased rear-end type accidents due to "panic" stops of people who fear getting a ticket on a yellow, and getting hit from behind..

  15. Red light cameras were never designed or invented for safety,...they were always about the MONEY. They increase rear end collisions, and raid your wallet. Dig up the extensive articles by the Chicago Tribune concerning these things and how they have been sold by only two companies with questionable ties to local governments,...and all powered by propoganda. In some cities they have been caught shortening the federal timing of the yellow in hopes of grabbin some fast bucks.

    If the cops are pushing for these things its because some guy named Slick showed them a pie chart full of $$$$$ as the main attraction. They should be illegal everywhere!

  16. The reason people run red lights is because THE LIGHTS ARE TIMED BADLY. Adjust the timing of the lights in North Las Vegas so you don't have to wait at EVERY single light, then people wouldn't get frustrated and run red lights.

    Also, enforcing a minimum speed on roads too, would help traffic to flow better. You would have less red lights run, and less accidents.

  17. So, guess who is sponsoering these studies? Law enforcement groups. Enough said.

  18. Point in case about light timing:

    Go South from Aliante/Simmons from Aliante Station to Vegas Dr. You will wait at all/almost all lights. At any given time of the day, even night. They are timed bad, and force people to speed just to catch lights. It takes 40 minutes to drive that run which should only take 20 at the speed limit with all green lights.

  19. For those of you who are bashing cops left and right here, I dare you spend a day in their shoes. Go on a ride along, Friday or Saturday night, swing/grave shifts, then you may have more respect for the profession.

    As far as the Cameras are concerned, I am totally for them. Not only would this curb a major problem in this city but it would be a beautiful generator of extra funds for the cities and county. If you're worried about paying one of these tickets, I'm sure there's some ambulance chaser out there whose willing to bring it down to a parking citation. (another thing I'd like to see repealed)

  20. Collusion between the private entity doing the study & the dept. that initiates it.The public treasury is being plundered with money for studies, DUI Checkpoints,etc. There is such a thing as restraint if you don't know how actions will effect the overall health of the system.Guess what? The other Republican Governors are following the same plan.The Pentagon hasn't cut their budget even with the lower income levels. These cuts are actually revenue they are identifying in order to keep up the levels of war funding.Nevada's share of war funding? $10.2 Billion. Total defense spending for 2011? $1.6 billion.

  21. An expectation of privacy is not at issue. It really has to do with due process. It is a misdemeanor, an officer needs to be able to identify the person driving. That's who needs to get the ticket. I believe it's more about money than safety. Any old timers will remember the days when NLV would ticket for revenue and then Judge Davis would throw a bunch of them out.

    I believe there is a case making it's way to the SCOTUS regarding red light cameras. Let's at least wait until it's decided.

    If statistics were governing their decisions then there would be no DUI checkpoints because statistically more drunks are caught with officers patrolling than at a static point. It's more about perception.

  22. Lets get these up, the sooner the better, and don't forget to make the fines hefty.

    And, while we are at it, how about getting prosocuters to stop the common practive of plea bargaining speeding tickets down to parking tickets.

  23. I happen to hate las vegas traffic lights. They are all timed wrong.

  24. Hey Las Vegas! I did a painful sign-up process here just to let you know that you need to be VERY CAREFUL who you make a deal with if you go forward with this. In Houston the mayor made a deal with American Traffic Solutions that could not be broken. Even after a referendum was voted on to take them back down, we're stuck with them. So, make sure you are not locked into a deal with ATS or anyone else if you decide to abandon this method of city revenue.