Editorial: Traffic cam money grab

Posted 3/8/18

There is something sneaky and unsavory about a for-profit, out-of-state company coming into town to snare and ticket motorists.

That’s what’s been happening in Providence lately and it’s no …

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Editorial: Traffic cam money grab

Posted

There is something sneaky and unsavory about a for-profit, out-of-state company coming into town to snare and ticket motorists.

That’s what’s been happening in Providence lately and it’s no wonder people lined up out the traffic court door this week for their first chance to proclaim innocence and outrage (some left feeling a bit better after the judge threw dozens of the tickets out).

Westport and other towns have contemplated such enforcement and the Providence experience suggests they were wise to be reluctant.

Providence is right to concern itself about rampant speeding through school zones but this seems at least as much about revenue as safety (especially since the schools are closed much of the time the cameras are nabbing motorists — Saturdays included).

Perhaps what frustrates drivers most is their inability to defend themselves — it’s difficult to argue a moment you don’t remember, and often impossible to take time off to wait in court to fight a $95 ticket. Tickets arrive days and weeks after the alleged offense (in New York City the delay can be months).

Were you driving that day, your son, anybody? Were the school zone lights flashing? Was the sign blocked by a parked truck?

A driver can suspect that the camera snapped too fast, that the calibration was off but, to paraphrase Goodfellas, ‘(Too bad), pay me.’

A big part of our justice system is the ability to confront an accuser, mount a defense. That is difficult to do when the accuser is some company in South Carolina that insists its cameras don’t malfunction.

The financials reveal the real reason those cameras were installed. In their first 32 days, they (mostly just three of them) issued 12,000 tickets. It’s a sweet deal for Providence, which raked in $1.15 million, and a sweet deal for the company which gets paid $2,978 per camera per month plus vigorish of $7.50 per ticket — good for $100,000 in the first month.

Cities and towns may need cash but this is a bad way to get it. Towns should leave their police work to the police force.

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Mike Rego

Mike Rego has worked at East Bay Newspapers since 2001, helping the company launch The Westport Shorelines. He soon after became a Sports Editor, spending the next 10-plus years in that role before taking over as editor of The East Providence Post in February of 2012. To contact Mike about The Post or to submit information, suggest story ideas or photo opportunities, etc. in East Providence, email mrego@eastbaymediagroup.com.