Residents See Red

Council Approves Renewal of Red-Light Camera Operator Contract


By Lynne Bronstein

Observer Reporter

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.


Reader Comments1 — 5 of 6

Robbing writes:

I got a ticket recently on Washington blvd. I expected to cross on Orange, but got late I guess. I know for sure that yellow light was there for a short duration only. After I drove past the intersection, I decided to be careful from next time. Well, as it's my mistake, I'm willing to pay fine and traffic school. But, more than 500$ is robbing people. Paying even 100$ is painful. Solution: Work hard to reduce my taxes and get my 500$ back soon. And will vote NO for tax hike every time in my life

Disgusted writes:

Just got a letter from a collection agency for a ticket for my husband in the amount of $790. Had no idea what it was, friend told me to look it up on LA Court website, since they have the citation listed in the letter, so I did. Turns out it was a Culver City Red Light Project ticket dated two and a half years ago. We never, ever received a summons, ticket anything from them. Just wrote the city council telling them to fix it immediately. What a shakedown. Shame on Culver City.

Corruption writes:

DO NOT RESPOND TO THE SUMMONS. I know multiple people that have ignored these unconstitutional summons with no consequences. I myself responded, went to court over it since a police car with sirens on caused me to run the red light and was convicted. The cameras only show a small % of the traffic scene, a small amount of time during the event and NO SOUND. This is straight up Culver City corruption. Worst set of cops in SoCal. I've seen them ticket 90 year old senior citizens for j-walking

Diego writes:

Azran held his last myth for last, maybe because he wasn't planning to tell the truth about ignoring the tickets. The truth: Any red light camera ticket from Culver City or any other city (or agency, such as the MTA) in LA County can be ignored - so long as the recipient does not contact the LA Superior Court about the ticket. Skeptical? Do a search on red light camera no consequence and read the many articles you will find. And spend your $500 on car insurance, or brakes.

Eric writes:

With LA City and County no longer using red light cameras due to their expense and maintenance I question the motives of CC board in renewing for 3 years. Was there a cost benefit analysis done on the program? This looks like a money grab by the city to help pay for city services while our property taxes continue to rise to pay for those services. Also included is the utility tax and additional sales taxes we pay within the city.


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