Red-light camera firms get heat over tickets

Source: Jayne O’Donnell, USA Today, March 18, 2013

Courts, government officials and motorists seeing red over traffic-light cameras are increasingly directing their fury toward the companies that sell the devices. At issue: contracts that give companies up to half of ticket revenue and shortened yellow lights that catch more motorists. Camera companies say they don’t set the timing of the lights — cities and counties do. And the manufacturers note that in many communities, local governments aren’t allowed to share ticket proceeds with the vendors. …. Camera maker Brekford, for example, this month announced a nearly 10% increase in revenue in 2012, which it called a “watershed year,” because of the company’s selection as the red-light and speed camera vendor for Baltimore….

… Yet recent developments continue to darken the picture for the controversial cameras:
• Four top officials of Redflex Traffic Systems, the second-largest camera company, stepped down in the past month after an internal probe showed an employee bribed a city official to get the company’s $2 million Chicago red-light camera contract.
• ATS settled 16 New Jersey class-action lawsuits in late December over yellow-light timing.
• The Collier County board of commissioners in Florida voted in December to discontinue its red-light cameras amid rumors that some yellow lights were shortened. …

… Last week, an Ohio trial judge blocked the village of Elmwood Place’s speed camera program, calling it a “scam on motorists” in part because the camera company got 40% of what could be $2 million in ticket revenue in six months. The village is appealing. …Elmwood Place, which has about 2,000 residents and is nearly surrounded by the city of Cincinnati, saw splitting revenue with camera-maker Optotraffic as a way to get commuters to reduce their speeds without having to do all the administrative tasks needed to process tickets…