LA Terminates Red Light Camera Program

The City Council voted to end it July 31. The city's police department wanted to continue it and said county courts refused to make changes that could raise the amount of collected fines.

The Los Angeles City Council has voted to end the city's red light camera program, which incurred a $2.5 million net loss the past two years, according to a controller's audit. The program, with 32 cameras deployed, will cease July 31, even though the Los Angeles Police Department recommended continuing it.

Red light-related collisions decreased by 63 percent from 2004 to 2009 at intersections where cameras are deployed, and there was a 10 percent drop in collisions of all types at those intersections, the department concluded. Citations at those 32 intersections more than quadrupled, from 14,000 to 59,000 annually, according to a December 2010 report from LAPD Chief Charlie Beck to the Board of Police Commissioners.

But fines were collected from too few of those cited drivers -- only 23 percent were collected in FY 2009-10, he reported. The reason was that LA county courts would not utilize DMV holds, an administrative measure, for failure to appear or use a collection mechanism to go after unpaid fines. Citations are mailed to the drivers so they are unsigned, unlike standard traffic tickets, and thus courts can't issue a warrant for failing to appear or ask DMV to suspend the offender's license. The courts also said they were unable to ascertain whether or not the registered owner of the cited vehicle is the offender, so it is not appropriate to suspend the owner's license.

There were about 56,000 open, unpaid citations on file from the cameras, representing some $7 million in potential revenue, at the time of Beck's report.

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