In the run up to the San Leandro City Council’s decision Monday night to renew a 14-year-old contract for red-light camera services, a few elected officials were alerted to the website HighwayRobbery.net.
The no-frills site created by an activist who opposes red-light cameras, is a treasure-trove of data covering the entire state, in addition, to helpful tips for navigating the process of challenging traffic tickets.
The deal offered this week by RedFlex, the red-light camera vendor used by the city since 2005, isn’t so good, they found, according to the site. At least, in comparison to other California municipalities.
The notion that San Leandro taxpayers might be fleeced by the company, clearly weighed on the mind of some councilmembers Monday night. Although the City Council directed staff to trigger a two-year option to extend the contract with RedFlex, the relationship with the vendor appears in doubt.
San Leandro’s contract is basically the same that it agreed to in 2011: Six red-light cameras at five locations costing $5,200 each month.
San Leandro Police Chief Jeff Tudor told the council that his department had not sought out new technology or other vendors.
“We’re talking about 14-year-old technology,” Councilmember Benny Lee said, asserting new technologies likely exists since the RedFlex cameras were installed eight years ago. “I think we’ve had this contract way too long.”
During the same time, Oakland and Hayward discontinued its contract with RedFlex.
A vast majority of the violations are for illegal right-hand turns and most tickets are issued to non-San Leandro residents, according to city staff.
Red-light cameras in San Leandro produced almost 10,000 tickets last year, generating roughly $5 million in fees. However, the city receives just 9 percent of the revenue. Nevertheless, San Leandro reaps $188,000 in extra revenue each year.
“We think about safety,” said Councilmember Corina Lopez, “others are thinking about profit and quite a bit of profit.” She also questioned the cost of tickets and whether it’s truly practical for working people to have the time to appeal them.
When the RedFlex contract was up for renewal in 2011, San Leandro Mayor Pauline Russo Cutter, then a councilmember, voted against the extension.
Cutter said the extra two years of the contract extension will give the city time to evaluate alternatives to RedFlex, including the possibility of buying and maintaining its own red-light camera equipment. “We would own the technology and could do more things with it,” said Cutter.
The former president of Redflex just finished her federal prison term for using bribes to win Chicago’s red light camera contract. A former Redflex VP of sales/whistleblower alleged that there were bribes to California cities – although he did not name them. Unless he’s had his head buried in the sand the last few weeks, right now the leader of any organization has to be wondering, “Who here is taking bribes?” And it should be a red flag when the organization is paying substantially more than the market rate for a product or service So, what is the market rate for red light cameras? In my Mar. 16 letter to the council I pointed out that the City of Elk Grove – also served by Redflex, has it written into their contract that once their cameras are ten years old they will pay $1500 (fifteen hundred) per month.
Bribes are a hot topic right now, but the corruption in SL is far worse than (possible) bribes. In my letter I pointed out that the rolling right turn ticketing has been going up, fast, in recent years, not down as would be expected after the handing out of thousands of $500 tickets. And I suggested a way (putting up “blank out” signs) the City could cut the number of dangerous turns. I thought that the council would be very interested in actually doing something to make the intersections safer. But the council didn’t even ask staff to investigate my suggestion – or ANY suggestion – about improving safety.
Two key points. First, right on red turns – including those with or without a full stop – are involved in only six one-hundredths of one percent (0.06% or 0.0006) of crashes with injuries or fatalities, per the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Report to Congress. Thus almost every right on red camera ticket goes to a safe driver who endangered no one. Almost all these tickets serve to enrich the for-profit camera vendors and the various programs supported by the state or county surcharges. Second, there are now five guilty pleas or verdicts in federal Redflex-related indictments for fraud, bribery, or extortion in only two states. A convicted former Redflex official said there are similar issues in at least 12 states. It is difficult to understand why any government would continue to deal with Redflex for anything.
James C. Walker, National Motorists Association
I was very surprised to see a ticket sent to me in a picture ,I am a disabled senior with very little means my medication this month will be cut in half because of the $500.00 ticket. This is a racket and a snare ,it’s just not a good look,Oakland and Hayward got rid of these underhanded over priced tickets, SanLeandro needs to keep up with the times and dump that 14 year old technology.