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Red light cams sneak past L.A.'s Ariz. boycott

June 23, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
The L.A. City Council voted to make an exemption to its economic boycott of Arizona over its new immigration law. If you see the flash while running a red light, chances are you just got your picture taken and you're busted.

The company that supplies the red light cameras is based in Scottsdale, Ariz. The city is supposed to be boycotting any Arizona-based companies because of its immigration laws. Yet, the contract with American Traffic Solutions expires next week, and there isn't time to find a replacement.

"The concern is, how many more of these exemptions will be coming through in public safety or another arena affecting Los Angeles?" L.A. Councilmember Dennis Zine said.

The city council knows it costs the city at least $300,000 a year to operate the 32 cameras installed throughout Los Angeles, and the tickets don't overcome the loss.

However, there is an upside according to the LAPD.

"There has not been any red light related fatality at any of these 32 intersections since the cameras were installed," said LAPD Sgt. Matt MacWillie.

However, the statistics show an increase or no change in traffic collisions at the intersections where the cameras have been installed.

"Thirty-two intersections - half of them were either the same or have had more. So that's not a very good record, and since the life of this contract, we've lost $1.5 million already," said L.A. Councilmember Janice Hahn.

The city is expected to consider expanding the red light cameras to more intersections in 2011. It won't be an Arizona firm and the contract will be more attractive to a city still in debt. It takes five police officers to keep tabs on the cameras and citations.

The choice to stay with the Arizona company and the current red light cameras for another year turned out to be fairly easy for the council. The vote was unanimous.

"The boycott was never intended to impede public safety and never intended to contribute to public safety issues," said L.A. Councilmember Richard Alarcon.

"So the question is, do you turn off the system and just stop doing it until we find something better or do we continue what we're doing? It's not the best. It can be better," said L.A. Councilmember Greig Smith.

Running a red light can cost you nearly $500, but the city only sees about a fourth of that and the rest of the money goes to the state.


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