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LA City Council committee approves motion to end red-light cameras

July 26, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
It could be days until the end of red-light cameras in Los Angeles. So what should you do if you get a ticket in the meantime?

Two different Los Angeles City Council committees have weighed in on the issue in the past two days, and reached the same decision: Negotiate a phase-out with the red-light-camera contractor and end red-light-camera enforcement in five days.

Red-light cameras are on a collision course with the L.A. City Council. The photo-enforcement program is under fire for failing to meet expectations set five years ago.

A Los Angeles Police Department commission already voted unanimously to pull the plug due to problems with enforcing the law.

The police commission referred to a Los Angeles City Controller audit that was reviewed Tuesday by the city council's Audits and Governmental Efficiency Committee.

Among the controller's findings: the offender's payment of the $480 fine was essentially voluntary.

"We have been told that these tickets would go to the DMV and then people would be paying. That wasn't occurring -- in significant numbers," said Terry William Newman, an auditor with the City Controller's Office.

If a driver is captured by one of the 32 camera-loaded intersections in the city of Los Angeles, the driver would receive what is called a "courtesy notice" first. Then a collection notice is sent. But if you fail to pay, your case is not sent to any collection agency. And there is no DMV hold placed on your driver's license.

On the other hand, if you pay the ticket, you are acknowledging the person pictured on the notice is you, and a point goes on your record.

So why doesn't the court pursue violators? The court tells the council committee that the tickets aren't fair unless the court has evidence that the person pictured on the ticket is the registered owner of the car. To send the case to a credit agency or to the DMV could hurt thousands of innocent drivers.

Sixty-thousand people have not paid their tickets.

American Traffic Solutions (ATS), the camera contractor, wants 18 months to await responses and receive fine payments. The company owns all of the data.

Council members are at odds about whether they should allow such a long phase-out or end it all in five days.

"There is a number of tickets and a lot of material that's in the system that we have to have access to," said L.A. City Councilman Bernard Parks, an audit committee member.

"What are we gaining? We have data that's collected from collision sites by the police department, by the department of transportation. We already have that. This doesn't serve any purpose whatsoever. It's just another smokescreen to continue this contract," said L.A. Councilman Dennis Zine, chairman of the audit committee.

There are many details still to be worked out. There are also some questions the committee has for the court. They are told they need answers to those questions by Wednesday for the final full council meeting on the issue.

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