Residents See Red
Council Approves Renewal of Red-Light Camera Operator Contract
By Lynne Bronstein
The City Council gave approval on May 12 to a new three-year contract with Redflex Traffic Systems, which operates Culver City's red-light camera program.
The program involves the installation, at busy intersections, of cameras which take pictures of cars that run red lights and allow the police to issue citations to the drivers.
Culver City has had an automated traffic program since 1998, when the first camera was installed at the intersection of Washington and La Cienega Boulevards. Since 2007, the automated system in use has been provided by Redflex.
The Culver City Police Department (CCPD) believes that the red-light program reduces traffic violations.
"When somebody gets one of these tickets they don't get them again," said Captain Alan Azran of the CCPD.
Azran presented the council with a series of myths about red-light cameras and the truth behind those myths.
Myth: Red-light cameras are illegal.
Truth: State law allows them and has allowed them since 1995.
Myth: Vendors issue citations.
Truth: Before sending out a citation, the police review the photographic evidence.
Myth: Red-light camera citations are more expensive than those issued by officers.
Truth: Fines are determined by the state legislature. The method by which the violation is detected is irrelevant.
Myth: The "yellow phase" of the automated system is set lower on purpose.
Truth: Culver City's light change intervals are set longer than the required time listed in the manual. The yellow time is 3.9 seconds, as opposed to the required 3 seconds.
Myth: People can ignore the tickets.
Truth: Los Angeles County Superior
Court actively pursues those who ignore citations.
Azran noted that opponents of red-light camera systems claim that money and time are being wasted on the issuance of too many tickets. But out of a traffic volume of approximately 416,000 vehicles per day, about 36,000 traffic tickets were issued in 2013. Of those, 20,479 (57 per cent) resulted in the issuance of citations.
Opposition to the renewal of the Redflex contract was voiced during public comment by Robert Zirgulis and by Jim Lissner. Both men cited reports that Redflex had been in trouble for what Culver City's staff report called "unethical business practices" in Chicago.
But Azran said the CCPD had investigated the unethical business practices charges. According to the city: "The allegations were found to have had no correlation to the functional performance of automated enforcement services and equipment as provided to Culver City by Redflex."
"We feel very confident that these issues have nothing to do with our program," Azran added.
Several members of the council admitted they had run red lights themselves but that paying the fine ($490) had proven to be an expensive but well-learned lesson to them to drive safely in the future.
"I can't believe the logic of this [the charge by opponents that red-light cameras are 'unfair']" said Vice Mayor Mehaul O' Leary. "They run red lights!
Mayor Meghan Sahli-Wells said that she had been, not a perpetrator of running a red light, but a victim of someone else who ran a red light. "I would much rather have had a camera at that intersection than the tremendous scare."
Of the $490 paid for a traffic ticket, Culver City realizes approximately $156; the State portion is approximately $211, and $123 goes to the County of Los Angeles.