By on December 20, 2011

After performing a thorough performance audit, Denver, Colorado’s city auditor is no longer convinced of the value of red light cameras and speed cameras. The Denver Police Department (DPD) deputized the Dallas-based firm Affiliated Computer Services (ACS, a division of Xerox) to issue red light tickets at four intersections and speeding tickets throughout the city with five roaming vans. The program has little more to show for itself than a profitable bottom line.

“Unfortunately, DPD has not demonstrated that the photo radar program has a positive impact on public safety,” City Auditor Dennis J. Gallagher wrote. “Because these programs were sold as public safety enhancements but are widely viewed as a cash grab, it undermines public trust to maintain photo enforcement programs that are profitable but whose safety impact has not been conclusively shown. If this situation persists, then the photo enforcement programs should be shut down.”
The audit noted the speed van program has been operating since 2002 without any objective measurement of the impact on safety. Instead, city officials relied on the report of the number of violations generated by ACS as the sole measure of effectiveness.

“A reduction in violations does not necessarily entail a significant reduction in speed, nor does it indicate a decrease in accident rates or pedestrian injuries,” the audit report noted. “Further, a 2006 internal DPD assessment suggests that DPD believes driver’s habits adjust as citizens become familiar with the locations of the photo radar vans. Therefore, a decrease in violations does not directly correlate to a sustained decrease in speeds after photo radar is deployed to a different location.”

Photo radar generated $3.6 million in revenue in 2010 and that amount is expected to top $7 million by the end of 2011 because ticketing operations expanded to seven days a week. With the red light camera program, certain types of accidents did decrease at the camera intersections, but the audit pointed out the city could not legitimately credit the improvement to cameras.

“At three of the four intersections with red light cameras, the number of right angle accidents was decreasing before the red light cameras were installed,” the report explained.
The full safety impact is impossible to gauge because city leaders increased the duration of the yellow lights, enlarged signal heads and installed countdown timers at the intersections where cameras were installed. The engineering improvements helped make the intersection safer, but also reduced the number of violations issued. To boost the number of tickets, ACS and Denver began ticketing people who stopped at red lights — but their car was photographed protruding a few inches beyond the stop bar. No other jurisdiction in the state tickets drivers who fully stop at red lights.

“Program revenues spiked largely due to more precise stop line enforcement,” the audit explained, “By April 2011, ACS was able to dramatically increase the number of incidents captured by the red light cameras due to the upgrades.”

These extra picky violations are the sole reason Denver’s red light cameras are profitable.

“DPD should also be aware that while program revenues recently increased in Denver, if DPD or Denver policymakers change the violation point to better align with practices in other municipalities, program revenues may decline to the point where they do not meet the budget for the program,” the audit explained.

In its response to the report, Denver police insisted it was impossible to conduct a study that would satisfy the auditor’s concerns. The most the department would do would be to have ACS conduct a study to justify continuing the ACS program by June 30, 2013.

A copy of the audit report is available in a 4mb PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Denver Photo Enforcement Program (Denver, Colorado City Auditor, 12/15/2011)


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11 Comments on “Colorado: Auditor Blasts Denver Photo Ticketing Program...”

  • avatar

    But, but, but the revenue is so important to city services!

  • avatar

    “The most the department would do would be to have ACS conduct a study to justify continuing the ACS program by June 30, 2013”.


    News Update
    June 30, 2013

    ACS has completed a study that has found that their services are justified for the Denver Red Light camera program. They will continue issuing tickets for violations.

    In a related development the Denver Chief of Police announced that he will be retiring and will be joining ACS as head of Community Development.

  • avatar

    Denver (and Colorado in general) should try investing that money in reflective paint for the roads if they really care about safety. The whole state’s a damn embarrassment any time it’s dark and wet out. And that’s before you have to deal with the melange of Texans and Californians that were chased out of their home states for being such awful drivers.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s pretty bad in NY and Michigan as well. On my 10 mile commute home it’s impossible to distinguish any lanes or the edge of the road in any type of mist, fog, or snow. It’s almost bizarre that reflective paint has gone missing while stock headlights seem as bright as high-beams were 10 years ago.

      On top of the paint issue, there are almost no good reflectors on the guardrails or sides of the road either. I know people don’t want the gov’t spending extra, unneeded money these days, but improved reflectors on major highways and byways just seems like a common sense improvement that benefits just about everyone out there.

      • 0 avatar
        87CE 95PV Type Я

        Another way to look at all this is that it slows down drivers and weeds out the bad ones. I live in New York’s Southern Tier where it is common for towns to vomit out miles and miles of roads out of their paving machines with no stripes at all or to patch roads without putting the stripes back down. Some of the roads have never been paved, some cannot be paved, and some would be better if they were turned into dirt if there is no money to replace them. Sure the guardrails are there, but they are often damaged in some way. I have learned to deal with it and just drive slower aka the speed limit or lower if need be. I cannot exactly compare the roads of Upstate New York to Ireland’s roads, but both are unpredictable and unnerving to a certain extent making them similar.

        The factory low and high beams on my Voyager suck so I just upgraded to a pair of 55W Foglights that really throw far and I use in place of my high beams. There are so many dang Deer around here.

        I suppose you are typing around Interstate like roads, but I am not.

  • avatar

    I drove in Colorado professionally for four years.
    I drove across America and Europe for another eight.

    DC is bad. Boston is bad. NYC is bad. LA is bad. Phoenix is very bad. Florida on I-95 is insane.

    But Denver and Colorado hold a special place in hell regarding drivers and safety.

    I think that Colorado drivers, (I talking West of Limon), are used to driving up mountains, down mountains, around sharp curves, in bad weather, on slippery roads, all year long – and often experience these just commuting from the Foothills into Denver Metro. They do this kind of driving so often they completely fail to recognize how out of control they are. After a year of speeding down I-70 out of Idaho Springs towards Golden without a lick of problems, why wouldn’t they do the same when anyone with a brain wouldn’t? Why wouldn’t they speed 80 miles per hour on black ice on sharp curves outside of Evergreen? Why wouldn’t they ride on your back bumper like they would do on a sunny day cruising around Glendale? They never had problems before.

    This creates one of the nation’s worse drivers. These people have grown so accustomed to driving in less than optimal situations, they drive less than optimally when they shouldn’t. On daily drives in good conditions, Denver drivers ignore red lights, they ignore other drivers, they gate crash through standing traffic to get onto an on ramp, they tailgate at 70 miles per hour, they speed in the mornings when the rising sun blinds them, and they speed in the evenings when the setting sun blinds them. It is a freaking miracle that there is anyone alive between Castle Rock and Fort Collins.

    I don’t like red light cameras. But I have no sympathy for Denver Colorado drivers either.

    • 0 avatar


      I agree 100%. This past september I visited Denver for a week, and I could not believe how aggressive the drivers are. I have driven up and down the I-95 corridor (Miami, DC, Boston, NYC) and while they can all be bad, nothing comes close to Denver.

      It is truly a miracle that Denver does not see 25 traffic related deaths a day based on my 1 week there.

      Mind you, I had a 2006 6.0 GTO. Pretty town but JH Christ, full of idiotic drivers.

    • 0 avatar
      87CE 95PV Type Я

      I will have to see if what you type is true if I go back out to the Front Range this coming Spring. My impression of Denver and Boulder drivers on surface streets was they were pansies and too nice which annoyed me since as a New York driver (Upstate) I hardly ever let other drivers take advantage of me unless I feel like being nice. Those traffic lights on onramps in Boulder really annoy me, guess I should not have ignored them.

      I did get passed while driving down Loveland Pass within 5 MPH of the speed limit.

  • avatar

    I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. ACS is a bunch of slimy cash grabbing buttholes. Their red light camera division is all about revenue, not safety.
    A private, for profit company will never act in the public interest.

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