California: Despite "Voluntary" Citations, LA County Rakes in Millions

The Newspaper
by The Newspaper

After news spread that paying a red light camera tickets in Los Angeles County, California is optional, the average number of people paying citations declined by nearly a third. According to an analysis of Los Angeles County Superior Court payment transaction count and revenue data by TheNewspaper, the state, Los Angeles County, municipalities and photo enforcement vendors are losing $1 million per month following the revelation that there is no penalty for tossing a mailed ticket in the trash. The news broke as part of the hearing process while Los Angeles municipal officials debated whether to shut off automated ticketing machines in the City of the Angels.

“What we have here is truly a voluntary citation program,” Los Angeles Police Commissioner Alan J. Skobin said at a June 7 meeting. “It’s voluntary because there’s no teeth in it and there’s no enforcement mechanism.”

The city of Los Angeles ultimately decided to wind down its red light camera program in July, but twenty-two other jurisdictions within the county are still issuing photo tickets. These include Beverly Hills, which pocketed $832,405.67 from May through September this year ($2 million on an annualized basis). Inglewood’s red light camera vendor collected on 2146 tickets worth over $1 million ($2.5 million on an annualized). The Metropolitan Transit Authority collected $515,838.81 in profit ($1.2 million annualized). Overall, the individual jurisdictions split $6.4 million in revenue between their general funds and special traffic funds. On an annualized basis, their profit from the near $500 fines is $15.4 million — but this figure does not count the cut for other governmental agencies.

Vehicle owners paid a total of 25,693 tickets to the superior court from May to September. That adds up to nearly $30 million a year in annual revenue, half of which goes to the state and county government, and the remainder is split between the municipalities and American Traffic Solutions, Redflex Traffic Systems of Australia and other vendors that do all the work of issuing the tickets.

Los Angeles Court raw citation data supplied courtesy of A copy of the analysis is available in a 50k PDF file at the source link below.


Los Angeles County, CA Ticket Revenue (TheNewspaper, 10/24/2011)


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  • Nikita Nikita on Oct 28, 2011

    The City of LA did not terminate it contract with ATS (despite a law that requires the city to stop doing business in Arizona) in order to preserve access to ticketing records so it may eventually collect on them. Why does the vendor "own" the data?

  • Tuffjuff Tuffjuff on Oct 28, 2011

    The way this whole thing is described almost sounds like a scam to me. Also, traffic light cameras in general *are* a scam. There's too much of a variable for intersection driving (speed of the road, length of the intersection, driving conditions) that it shouldn't be an automated process.