Cities that use automated ticketing machines at intersections routinely assert two things: The camera does not lie, and at least three humans review each citation before it is dropped in the mail. That did not happen in Port Lavaca, Texas. On September 12, Port Lavaca Police Sergeant Kelly Flood signed a ticket accusing Dale Price of running a red light and demanding he pay $75 by October 12, but the light was green.
“Based upon my review and inspection of the recorded images, I state that a violation of ordinance #S-1-08 did occur,” the ticket stated just above Flood’s signature. “I declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of the state of Texas the foregoing is true and correct.”
On September 6 at 12:04pm, Price drove his grey 2009 GMC pickup through the intersection of US 35 and Travis Street. He was making a left-hand turn, with turn signal active, at 17 MPH. According to the red light camera, the light had been red for more than a minute. According to the photographs (view first photo, view second photo), and the video evidence, the light remained green throughout his turn. After being notified of the citation, local officials scrambled to order Redflex Traffic Systems, the Australian company in charge of the program, to cancel the ticket (view ticket). That is not good enough for Port Lavaca Citizens Against Red Light Cameras, a group working on a petition that would allow voters to decide the camera program’s future.
“This is one of the reasons that we’d want to shut down the program,” group co-founder Dwayne Buehring told The Newspaper. “We don’t know how many people have paid tickets without looking at the video. Because of the scare tactics they use, some people are just going to pay. This cop down there is just mailing them out to everyone.”
The group is looking to collect the 200 signatures needed to place a ban on red light cameras before voters. Earlier this year, the group succeeded in gathering those signatures, but the city cited the court case in Houston as a reason not to place the measure on the ballot. With a new petition, activists are say the law is now firmly on their side. They cite the very ruling of federal Judge Lynn Hughes that attempted to save Houston’s red light cameras as a reason why the Port Lavaca vote must proceed (view ruling).
“Clearly the city was in error when they rejected placing our petition on the ballot,” Carl Baugh and Dwayne Buehring wrote in a June 20 letter to the city council. “The case you were waiting on for vindication of denying a vote has not gone your way. While the judge did rule that Houston was in error for placing the issue on the ballot it was merely because it was untimely as Houston has a thirty-day limit on referendums. The Port Lavaca charter has no such restriction. By your own statements as well as your ministerial duty to the citizens of Port Lavaca you have an obligation to immediately proceed with the process to place our petition on the next legal election.”
Buehring, who recently moved to Houston, is still helping to collect signatures.
“We know the 500 people who signed it last time, we just have to go see them,” he said.