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LA stalemate ends red-light camera program

June 21, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
A Los Angeles City Council stalemate over extending the city's contract for red-light cameras effectively ended the program.

The City Council voted 7-5 to allow a contract with the Arizona company that operates cameras to expire on July 31. They needed eight votes to overturn the Police Commission's decision to end the program.

Under complicated procedural rules, the issue will remain on the City Council agenda until the contract expires, unless a majority of council members vote to resurrect the program, which is unlikely.

There are 32 red-light cameras in the city. According to the LAPD, the cameras help decrease the number of collisions.

"Since we've had the program, there have been 183,000 (citations) issued, and there have been a 62-percent decrease in red-light traffic collisions," said LAPD Deputy Chief Michael Downey.

But the problem with the program was that it was ineffective because there was no mandatory fine. State laws hinder the city's ability to collect fines from violators, and the city was losing money. The city paid about $2.7 million per year under the contract.

"My concern with photo red light in the city of Los Angeles is not that the police department has done anything wrong, but the courts, in their infinite wisdom, decided not to use the tools to hold people responsible," said Councilman Dennis Zine.

The Police Commission voted unanimously last week to end the red-light camera program, but two city councilmen wanted to extend the contract on a month-to-month basis.

"I'm a little bit baffled when I'm hearing that we should scrap a program that actually has improved saving lives and preserving lives in the city of Los Angeles in these 32 intersections," said Councilman Tony Cardenas during the debate.

ABC7.com initially reported that the vote was 9-3. This has been corrected.

City News Service and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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