Exit Ahead for Red-Light Cameras

The vote to end the program means the city plans to stop issuing citations at the end of July

By Jonathan Lloyd
|  Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011  |  Updated 3:32 PM PDT
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LA's red-light cameras are headed for a dead end after the LA City Council voted Wednesday to end the program.

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The council vote was 13-0 in favor of ending the program. The city plans to stop issuing citations at the end of July and phase out the program, which includes cameras at 32 LA intersections.

The city and the program's Arizona-based vendor will work to remove the cameras and deal with existing tickets. Some cameras under county transit agency jurisdiction will remain along rail and bus lines.

The decision comes after the city's Budget and Finance Committee voted 5-0 Monday to phase out the program. The Audits and Governmental Efficiency committee met Tuesday and sent the issue before the full council.

Council members deadlocked the last time they took up the issue. They sent it back to the Budget and Finance Committee, which voted 5-0 Monday to phase out the program.

More than 180,000 motorists have been ticketed since 2004 under the program.

It's estimated that LA was losing about $1.5 million per year because many drivers did not pay after receiving mailed citations. Courts do not report most offenders to the Department of Motor Vehicles.

"The state has failed to make this work for local governments," said Council President Eric Garcetti.

At Monday's meeting, the Police Commission executive director said that the tickets issued for violations are part of a voluntary payment program.

"The courts don't impose the fines," said Councilmember Dennis Zine. "The courts don't really acknowlege this. If you don't pay the citation and you get a notice from the collection agency and you disregard that, there are really no consequences."

In June, Councilman Bernard Parks said he was in favor of renewing the camera contract on a month-to-month basis, but he voted in favor of phasing the program after "it became clear that two important issues could not be resolved.''

Parks said he hoped the courts would change position on suspending car registrations for drivers who neglected to pay the fine for a red-light violation. He also said he hoped a state Senate bill would require county courts to enforce the tickets.

That bill was suspended. Parks now says LA needs to look at how it phases out the program.

"In the long term, I think you'll find it a mistake to get rid of this program," Parks said Wednesday.

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