Study Questions Wisdom of Privatized Law Enforcement

The Newspaper
by The Newspaper

An estimated sixty million Americans live in a jurisdiction monitored by an automated ticketing machine. According to a report released today by the left-leaning US Public Interest Research Group (US PIRG), the trend of privatizing law enforcement raises a number of issues that put the public in those areas at risk.

“Pitfalls can arise when contracts encourage vendors to treat automated traffic enforcement systems as a profit center: by maximizing the number of tickets written, regardless of the impact on public safety; by limiting the ability of governments to set traffic safety policies according to community needs; or by constraining the ability of cities to terminate contracts early in the event that automated enforcement systems are rejected by the electorate or fail to meet safety goals,” the study explained.

Under severe budgetary pressures, local jurisdictions often sign contracts with vendors that were presented with a slick marketing campaign. Such deals often contain extremely unfavorable terms. The public is hurt by per-ticket payment systems — often disguised with “cost neutral” contract language — that ensure that the system is designed to maximize revenue, not safety. Such provisions provide a monetary incentive to increase the number of tickets issued. That leads to other provisions prohibiting cities from lengthening yellow light duration to improve safety and requiring right on red ticketing and ticket approval quotas.

“Many automated traffic law enforcement contracts create risk by penalizing municipalities or leaving them exposed to costly and disruptive lawsuits in the case of early termination of the contract, leaving taxpayers on the hook even if the camera system fails to meet community objectives,” the study noted. “Contract terms that keep municipalities locked in with heavy cancellation fees or threaten them with expensive litigation if they change their minds are not in the best interests of the public.”

The report’s authors suggested the privatized law enforcement arrangement creates a dynamic where the companies end up lobbying for the creation of more violations. In Florida, for example, red light camera companies employed forty lobbyists at a cost of over $2 million to kill legislation that would have mandated longer yellow signal times and that would have otherwise limited the use of photo ticketing. Both Redflex Traffic Systems of Australia and American Traffic Solutions (ATS) have created front groups to create the appearance that these corporate efforts have “grassroots” support.

The study concluded with recommendations about the way to structure a red light camera program “free from potential conflicts of interest.” No such principles are adhered to by any existing photo ticketing program.

A copy of the study is available in a 1mb PDF file at the source link below.


Caution: Red Light Cameras Ahead (US Public Interest Research Group, 10/27/2011)


The Newspaper
The Newspaper

More by The Newspaper

Join the conversation
2 of 7 comments
  • Forraymond Forraymond on Oct 27, 2011

    Privatizing our prisons has created a $4B industry and many, many laws designed to keep people in these private prisons. Each empty bed costs the company money. The prison lobby is strong and getting stronger. Pretty soon, they will put folks in jail for any trumped up charge and never let you out. The prison owners get bonuses bases upon occupancy - this is not American it is more like Mussolini, a fascist.

  • Namesakeone Namesakeone on Oct 27, 2011

    One other stakeholder has not been mentioned in this article: insurance companies. When premium increases are tied to traffic tickets, they stand to make a lot of money from these cameras and from private law enforcement. Didn't GEICO sponsor these cameras at one time?

  • Probert A few mega packs would probably have served as decent backup.
  • Lou_BC Lead sleds. Now-a-days GM would just use Bondo.
  • Jrhurren This is a great series. Thanks Corey
  • Tane94 Not as stylish as the Soul which it is replacing but a practical shape and bonus points for EV only.
  • Ronin What is the magical white swan event in the foreseeable future that will suddenly reverse the trend?Success tends to follow success, and likewise failure. The perception, other than among true believers, is that e-cars are a lost cause. Neither government fiat, nor government bribery, nor even the promise of superior virtue among one's peers have been enough to push past the early adapter curve. Either the bust-out is right now for e-cars, or it doesn't happen. Marketing 101.Even subtle language-manipulation, such as deeming those possessing common sense as suffering from some sort of vague anxiety (eg, "range anxiety") has not been enough to induce people to care.Twenty years from now funny AI-generated comedians will make fun of the '20s, and their obsession with theose silly half-forgotten EVs. They will point out that, yes, EVs actually ran on electricity generated by such organic fuels as coal and natural gas after all, and then they will perform synthesized laughter at us.