Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Blow to Operator of Red-Light Cameras

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Blow to Operator of Red-Light Cameras

Article excerpt

That new problem the courts have found with red-light camera ticket systems might be tough to fix.

I'm tempted to hope it can't be done and still keep the industry profitable.

The company that captures and processes video evidence at intersections in the Florida city of Hollywood is American Traffic Solutions, or ATS, a giant in the industry. It is the same company used in Sarasota and many other places in Florida.

Though Sarasota and other local camera ticket officers won't exactly say so, they have to be squirming and wondering if their entire operations are soon to be shut down or much changed. They have no obvious reason to think their red-light ticketing systems are any more likely to pass a court review than the one in Hollywood.

That Hollywood system was just knocked out of the water by one man's successful fight against his ticket, a ruling now upheld by the 4th District Court of Appeal.

I can't help but be glad that judges decided that the vendor's dominating role in every step of the ticketing process there violates state law.

Not that I suspected it might happen. Heck no. Frighteningly enough, private companies now get paid to run deadly military style operations, do spy and surveillance programs, run prisons and even profit from publicly owned toll roads.

So, I never expected Florida courts to say they can't send us traffic tickets, too. I assumed they could keep milking the pickiest, most marginal violations for easy profits as long as their lobbyist-loving lawmakers let them.

But as critics have often complained, Arizona-based ATS and similar companies do much more than provide automated cameras at intersections and lobby for installing more and more of them. As court documents attest, ATS runs a "a computerized system to review recorded images of red-light violations" and sends the evidence, electronically, to the appropriate law enforcement agency for review.

If a law officer hits "approved," the company sends out the notice of violation. If it goes unpaid -- vehicle owners have that option -- ATS sends out the resulting citation, too, which carries a larger fine and shows up in driving records. …

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