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Archive for November, 2010

Your Red Light Camera Fines pay Top Execs $500k per year

Monday, Nov 22nd, 2010
Redflex Approves Executive Raises, Expects Profit Redflex shareholders approve compensation package for camera company executives in anticipation of lucrative sale. Redflex shareholders on Friday approved big pay hikes for the photo enforcement firm's top management at the annual meeting in Victoria, Australia. Redflex has cornered 44 percent of the red light camera and speed camera market in the US, although Arizona-based rival American Traffic Solutions (ATS) is catching up to its down under competitor with a 41 percent market share. Investors looked past the 92.6 percent drop in profit for the year -- down to just US$437,300 -- in signing off on the executive compensation packages with a show of hands. Karen Finley, the head of US operations, will be paid $498,108, a figure that includes 79,701 shares of stock incentives worth $189,108. CEO Graham Davie will be paid $496,637, including $186,262 in stock. Proxy votes showed very little opposition to these amounts, but there was some controversy over the plan to increase the maximum annual payment to company directors from $396,000 to $693,000. The directors had insisted that they were entitled to the boost because they have been working hard to sell Redflex to a firm like Siemens AG or Macquarie Bank. Although the salary increase passed, 47 percent of the proxies registered their objection. Shareholders are anxious to cash in from a potential sale. "If and when firm offers are received, the board will assess the offers and determine whether to recommend an offer to shareholders," board Chairman Max Findlay said in his opening remarks. "The board has not made any decision as to the ultimate outcome of the process at this stage and gives no assurance that a suitable offer will be forthcoming from the process." In the meantime, Findlay explained that his firm would remain committed to its number one priority. "We have set strategic principles to guide the direction of the company, and the actions flowing from those strategic initiatives are starting to bear fruit," Findlay said. "Key elements of the strategy are: maximizing revenue from existing, new and renewed contracts; identifying new sources of revenue from existing customers." The firm sees a potential for revived profits now that it has beaten back the lawsuit by ATS, which lost the case on all counts before a jury. Redflex also wrote off the millions lost on the failed Arizona freeway photo radar experiment. "The contract encountered problems early with delays in access to required court data, resource constraints in the court system resulting in a large number of citations being rejected, intense media and interest group opposition, poor collection rates, with citizens actively encouraged not to pay fines, and many items of proposed legislation introduced that could have had a major negative impact on the program," Findlay said. "As a consequence of many of these issues, the contract ran at a loss." Redflex also highlighted the growing unpopularity of automated ticketing machines -- as highlighted in the massive loss at the ballot box on November 2 -- as a development that allows Redflex to maintain its competitive advantage. ATS lost one of its largest accounts when Houston, Texas voters ousted red light cameras. "Most of the cities that do not renew at end of contract have made a decision not to continue photo enforcement activity, and do not move their business to a competitor," Davie said. "We have also seen a small number of contracts terminated for various reasons before end of contract."
Posted in Red Light

Only 2% of Drivers Contest Their Red Light Camera Tickets in Belmont, CA

Monday, Nov 22nd, 2010
Property crime drops in Belmont, red light camera fines go uncontested By Mike Rosenberg mrosenberg@bayareanewsgroup.com Posted: 11/20/2010 06:22:34 PM PST Updated: 11/20/2010 11:07:21 PM PST In the past year, property crime has dropped, emergency responses have gotten quicker and there have been more traffic collisions, Belmont police said in an annual report released Friday. What's more, the results show that hardly anyone is challenging the $450 fines from the city's first two red light cameras. The report from Chief Don Mattei, to be discussed at the Belmont City Council meeting Tuesday, includes statistics for the fiscal year ending June 30 and compares the figures to the prior year. Violent crimes such as homicide, rape, robbery and assault are so rare in Belmont that they barely change much from year to year. There were 97 assaults and nine robberies in the past year, compared to 95 assaults and nine robberies the year before. Each year saw one slaying, and there were three rapes this past year, compared to two the year before. But among property crimes -- burglaries, thefts and stolen vehicles -- there have been significant decreases. Police said there have been 29 percent fewer stolen vehicles this past year, while the number of burglaries has dropped 18 percent and thefts have dipped 17 percent. In all, there were 427 property crimes in the past year, down from 522 the prior year. Also noteworthy: While the number of emergencies hasn't changed, police in a year have cut their average emergency response time from 4.5 minutes to 2.7 minutes. In addition, the number of traffic collisions Advertisement jumped 38 percent from 200 to 275 in the past year. It's unclear whether these trends exist over a long period of time or just from the past year. Prior year data isn't included in the report, and police officials did not return calls Friday requesting further information and comment. Mattei also said the city's two red light cameras, which turned on in May on Ralston Avenue at El Camino Real and Old County Road, are "meeting the needs of the community." So far, police have issued about seven tickets per day between the two cameras. That's about half the number seen throughout the county, where typically each camera produces seven tickets per day at intersections in San Mateo, Redwood City, Millbrae, Daly City and Menlo Park. Also interesting is that Mattei said just 2 percent of the 1,063 tickets issued so far have been challenged, even through the fines can reach up to $500. Part of the reason may be that police said they throw out 38 percent of potential tickets, usually because either the photo quality is not good enough or the infraction is questionable, meaning they only send out tickets when they are sure they will hold up in court. In addition, the report includes what Mattei called a "key issue." Five full-time members of the police department will be eligible for retirement soon, setting up hurdles to make sure the squad is fully staffed. Also at Tuesday's meeting, the council will hold its annual rotation, where Vice Mayor Coralin Feierbach is in line to replace Christine Wozniak as mayor. Mike Rosenberg covers San Mateo, Burlingame, Belmont and transportation. Contact him at 650-348-4324. crimes in belmont Violent crime numbers rarely change, but property crime fell significantly. Assaults: Rose to 97 this fiscal year, up from 95 the previous year Property crimes: Fell to 427 this year, down from 522 in the previous year Rapes: Rose to 3 this year, up from 2 the previous year Robberies: Totaled 9 this year, the same as the previous year Slayings: Totaled 1 this year, the same as the previous year Thefts: Fell 18 percent this year Vehicle thefts: Fell 27 percent this fiscal year 27 percent Amount vehicle thefts fell in one year 18 percent Amount thefts declined in one year Source: Report from Belmont police chief
Posted in Red Light

California: Red Light Camera Class Action Suit Advances

Saturday, Nov 20th, 2010
Multimillion dollar federal lawsuit seeks red light camera refund from Santa Ana, California. A federal class action lawsuit seeks to take advantage of last month's California Supreme Court's red light camera decision. The high court let stand a lower court ruling that invalidated citations on the ground that the city of Santa Ana's failed to provide the legally required warning periods before activating the automated ticketing machines (view ruling). Motorist Robert Plumleigh was forced to pay $480 on March 17, 2008 after a camera accused him of turning right at a red light at one of the sixteen intersections where the city failed to provide the required thirty-day warning period. He wants Santa Ana to refund all illegally issued tickets. US District Court Judge Cormac J. Carney on Wednesday gave Plumleigh's lawyers an extra thirty days to file for class certification. "City defendants have not reimbursed the fines that they forced and required plaintiffs pay, despite having issued the non-warning automated traffic camera citations to plaintiffs prior to instituting the thirty day warning notice period required under California Vehicle Code, section 21455.5(b)," Plumleigh's lawyer, Mark P. Pifko, wrote in his brief to the court. "During the relevant time period, city defendants violated plaintiffs' and class members' rights under the Takings Clause of the California Constitution by taking plaintiffs' and class members' private property for public use without just compensation ascertained by a jury." The suit seeks a refund of every single ticket issued at those sixteen intersections between May 2003 and November 25, 2009. Last November, after losing on the warning issue in Orange County Superior Court court, the city finally decided to hold the required warning periods at every intersection. The class action suit names as defendants Santa Ana Police Chief Paul M. Waters, City Attorney Joseph W. Fletcher and Redflex Traffic Systems, the Australian company in charge of the ticketing program. "As a result of the Redflex defendants' conduct, including, but not limited to, as discussed above, failing to comply with their agreed upon contractual obligations and California law, plaintiffs and class members have been harmed by Redflex defendants' unlawful and unfair business acts and practices as alleged herein, including but not necessarily limited to suffering injury in fact and the loss of money and property," Pifko wrote. Redflex in response filed a motion to dismiss on the grounds that it cannot be held liable for violating the warning period statute because the law specifically applies to a "local jurisdiction," not to a private company. Redflex also claims it has immunity from prosecution because its acts were performed in conjunction with official proceedings. A hearing on a motion to dismiss is scheduled for December 6. -The Newspaper.com 11/8/2010
Posted in Government

Red-light cameras come down in Houston...but will cost the city Cancellation Fees

Monday, Nov 08th, 2010

Red-light cameras angst


Regarding "City won't yield yet on cameras" (Page A1, Thursday), so now Houston will have to pay four months of cancellation fees to ATS, the Arizona firm that manages Houston's red-light camera system. The city officials responsible for the red-light cameras are either arrogant or incompetent (or maybe both).

They should have sent a letter to ATS giving notice of cancellation the day they learned the issue would be on the ballot. Why didn't they?

If they issue anymore red-light camera tickets after Nov. 2, I doubt anyone will pay them. Would you?

Alex Newton, Houston

Attorneys profit

Those who fought the installation and use of red-light cameras in Houston managed to get the issue before the voters and defeat their purpose. Red-light cameras were a law enforcement tool, not unlike radar or communication systems. In just four years, 800,000 tickets were issued or about 548 tickets a day. Can you say: 800,000 dissenting votes?

How many officers did those cameras relieve so they could pursue more important cases?

Are the people who fought their use going to profit from this ban? You betcha. They are attorneys who defend lawbreakers, and it is difficult to shield their clients from video proof. Their argument was that the city profited, but are they immune from monetary gain? Not hardly. Are these same attorneys now going to bring the use of other law enforcement tools before the voters?

How about Tasers or pistols or whether or not our jails should have bars?

Bob Brink, Kingwood

Duty to obey law

The people of Houston have witnessed a close battle over whether to keep the red-light cameras.

Those against the measure have done a fine job against the proponents of the cameras who had much more money, resources and endorsements, including the Phoenix camera providers, the police, the insurance companies and others.

But now we all have a duty to obey the law, stop for red lights and avoid accidents. If we don't and accidents go up, the legions of camera supporters will be vindicated and may even, heaven forbid, bring the cameras back again.

I believe that this vote may show other major cities how to get rid of the cameras, but not if our accident rate bounces back up.

Stephen Hodgson, Galveston

Stop signs next?

Looks like the majority of voters are against the red-light cameras. I couldn't understand why it was on the ballot at all. Why don't they put stop signs and red lights on the ballot? And policemen and firemen? Then we can get rid of everything we vote for that we don't want.

There are too many red-light runners even with the cameras. This should not have been something the voters should decide on.

Jo Rhodes, Humble

Truth is not garbage

I don't believe political cartoonist Michael Ramirez sees the irony in his cartoon "Wikileaks Sewage" (Page B7, Saturday) where he likens WikiLeaks to a sewage truck.

In effect he's saying that truth is garbage, because the truth of our open and clandestine operations which torture prisoners and kills civilians with impunity is what WikiLeaks exposes.

It is past time that those who control these operations, both military and civilian, are held accountable and not excused just because they are on our side.

Arthur Preisinger, Houston

The Anthony Graves case

I am one of the attorneys for Anthony Graves and read the letters published in the paper ("Exonerations and justice," Page B16, Wednesday). I agree that there are many, many people who are responsible for such an awesome outcome in this case, including the final two prosecutors.

I am proud of the dismissal, but I cannot help but be frustrated and angry that it took 18 years for the state to conduct a real investigation.

The evidence relating to the crimes had not changed since 1992 when the offense occurred, in 1994 when Anthony was tried, convicted and sentenced to death, and in 2006 when the 5th Circuit reversed and remanded for a new trial because of the prosecutorial misconduct of Charles Sebesta, then the district attorney.

And what is even worse, one year ago the then-prosecutors offered Anthony life in prison as opposed to going to trial and risking a jury sentencing him to death again. Of course, Anthony turned the offer down. But the "actual innocence" evidence found by Kelley Siegler and Bill Parham was the same evidence that was there since 1992, and no one ever asked or investigated.

Anthony gave the Texas Rangers and consequently Sebesta a handwritten document outlining where he was for 24 hours, which included the relevant period of time, and Texas Ranger Coffman told Dick DeGuerin in a writ hearing in 1994 that he never spoke to any of Anthony's alibi witnesses.

Someone asked me if this end result made me feel better, and my response was "No. It scares the hell out of me" for the simple reason that it is too easy for one person to form a conclusion and refuse to veer from that path regardless of the evidence - and that is what Charles Sebesta did.

He heard Robert Earl Carter say many times that he lied on Anthony. Sebesta told Geraldo Rivera in an interview that yes, Carter did say that, but he just did not believe him.

Is that why Sebesta decided the defense did not need to know about Carter's statements and failed to divulge that information to Anthony's attorneys then? Shame on you, Mr. Sebesta.

Katherine Scardino, Houston

More than the economy

Regarding "Vote has liberated Obama from confining alliances" (Page B9, Thursday), David Broder and other commentators have missed the point in explaining the huge rejection of the Democrats and their agenda. While the economy did have an impact, the greater reason is the utter contempt President Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had toward the American public; the sleazy deals to buy votes; the 400 pages added to bills the night before a vote; the lack of debate and limited ability to amend; the insulting comments made to anyone who had a different viewpoint; the secret White House meetings with unions.

I have a great regard for intelligent people but a bitter distrust for those who are clever, and thanks to President Obama, a repulsion for those who are smarmy.

Dell Ayres, Houston
Posted in Government

Red Light Camera Tickets only $75 in Colorado

Friday, Nov 05th, 2010
COLORADO SPRINGS, COLO. -- Last month, the Colorado Springs Police Department started sending tickets to drivers who ran red lights at intersections monitored by cameras. There are four intersections that have the cameras, and safety officials say they're among the city's most dangerous. "We want to reduce accidents at these intersections," CSPD Sgt. Steve Noblitt said. "We've had a lot of side-impact crashes at these intersections, there's a large number of violations at these intersections, and our goal is to ultimately reduce traffic crashes and violations at these intersections." During the 30-day trial period, they issued more than 1,400 warnings. In the first week of actual enforcement, they've sent out about 300 notices by mail.
More on the red light cameras
Diagram of how the cams work
Why these intersections?
Copy of the city ordinance
"When you get the notice, you can either pay the $75 fine - no points - or choose to go to court and contest the summons," Noblitt said. "With the summons will come still photos, as well as your speed and how long the light was yellow and how long it was red." There will also be a web link and password so motorists can watch a 12-second clip of the alleged violation. Police officers review the video before they send out violations. "They review all the violations that the vendor sends us, and based upon our business rules - these are actually rules that were established in the contract with the vendor - it's violations that we as a police department will either accept or not accept," CSPD Sgt. Andrew James said. "For example, if it's not a clear visual shot of the person driving the vehicle, we know we do not want to see that violation. However, if it does get sent to us, my officer still has the discretion to look at the violation and say, 'you know, I'm not comfortable with that one,' so there's checks and balances between the vendor's site and the CSPD." Police said they've gotten a lot of questions from motorists, especially concerning turning right on red light. "You can turn right on red at most intersections in Colorado Springs unless there's a sign indicates you can't," Noblitt said. "But remember, you have to stop first, either behind the stop bar or the crosswalk before you turn right on red, you can't roll through it." He also said you won't be cited if you're in the intersection waiting to turn when the light turns red. "They're in the intersection, they're fine," Noblitt said. "What we're looking for is people that approach the intersection while the light is red and then go through it, so if you approach when it's green or yellow, and you get to the intersection when it's green or yellow, you're not what we're looking for." It costs the city around $5,200 per month per intersection to keep the cameras in operation. Authorities said it's a huge cost savings over stationing squad cars there. They also say it's never been a revenue-driven program. "It's really motivated to reduce the crashes there. If there's 1,400 violations in a 30-day period, I think that speaks for itself," Noblitt said. "We aren't making these up, they are happening, and we're confident this will change the way people drive in Colorado Springs, which is a good thing." Published by ColoradoConnection.com
Posted in Red Light

LA determines Red Light Cameras are just too expensive

Thursday, Nov 04th, 2010
From an article that originally appeared in The Huffington Post, red light cameras are being exposed in LA for the scam that they are. Steve Parker, a regular columnist for that online publication has seen the numbers and they just don't add up. Not surprisingly, accidents are not going down. Somewhat surprising is that the city is losing money on the program.
This scandal came to light several months ago, when that LAPD report showing no improvement in accident rates at many of the intersections was released to the public. Several local news reporters, print and electronic, went over the internal audit and found it appeared that not only were accident rates not declining at these intersections, but both the city and the public seemed to be paying for a service which was providing no benefit for them.
How can a city in a budget crunch as bad as LA run a program that is costing them money and time with no benefit to the public? It seems that the scamera vendors are really making out like the bandits they are.
Posted in Red Light

Anaheim Bans Red Light Cameras-LA Times

Thursday, Nov 04th, 2010
Anaheim voters have decided that they don't want cameras installed at city intersections to monitor for drivers who run red lights. Nearly 73% of voters Tuesday approved Measure K, which amends the Anaheim City Charter to prevent the City Council from authorizing any red-light cameras or other automated traffic enforcement systems. The move comes amid growing debate about the cost and effectiveness of the cameras, which are used in dozens of California cities. The Anaheim City Council does not want to install them. But backers of the measure said they feared future councils might be tempted to do so to generate extra revenue for the city. "Anaheim's voters recognized that red-light cameras are not a proven deterrent to traffic violations or traffic accidents, and I happen to agree with that assessment," Mayor Curt Pringle said in a statement Wednesday. "Other cities have chosen to use red-light cameras as a revenue-producing tool, but the City Council disagreed so we took the vote to the people, and they have spoken." Red-light violations accounted for nearly 40% of the 2,397 accidents at Anaheim intersections from 2007 to 2009, according to police figures. In all, there were 12,858 traffic accidents during that period. -- Alexandra Zavis Photo credit: Nick Ut / Associated Press
Posted in Red Light

Getting Over "Too Good To Be True"

Monday, Nov 01st, 2010
TicketKick.com is a web-based service that professionally helps California drivers obtain dismissals on their traffic tickets through a legal process in California known as "Trial By Written Declaration", or trial through the mail. We guarantee our service, so if we don't win the case, we can offer a refund. Sounds good, right? Many of our customers though it sounded too good to be true. We had good call volume, and adequate web traffic, but we couldn't close many of our customers because they had their guard up for a scam. To top it off, we had a competitor with a very similar name that had given the industry a bad rep. Our advertising expense was eating up way too much of our budget, so we had to figure out away to close a higher percentage of our skeptical customers. We began to look at our problem from the eyes of a consumer. If we were speculative of a company, what would increase our confidence and push us past the purchase threshold? These four items seemed to become paramount in the ongoing struggle for customer confidence. 1) Let the customer control the conversation: As experts in the industry, we had vast amounts of information regarding the customer's scenario. At first, we would control the conversation, and bombard the customer with information we thought that they wanted to hear. Later down the road, we began to realize that only a few things needed to be said, the rest can be brought out in the form of an answer to a question asked by the customer. 2) Speak with confidence: This sounds relatively straightforward, but is actually a lot harder than it sounds. When I hear my sales reps use such powerful words as 'like' and 'um', I cringe. We speak so loosely in casual environments that we can forget how to converse in the business world. I instructed my sales team to slow down a little bit, and concentrate on the delivery of their words. Our close rate increased because of this change. 3) Avoid overused marketing strategies: "Buy now and we'll throw in a second Widget, for Free!" Everyone had heard it a million times, and we all know it's the same old marketing ploy. In our business model, we avoided using promotions and discounts in lieu of building the value of our service up. Believe it or not, people would rather pay more for value than pay less for garbage. 4) Allocate 1-on-1 customer support: We wanted our customers to really bond with their sales agents from the beginning. Our service can be a complicated process, and customers became reassured that they were in good hands knowing they weren't going to be transferred from department to department. -Greg Muender, President of TicketKick In response to Young Entrepreneur
Posted in News