Lawmakers turn red light camera ban into a CDOT study

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DENVER -- The kill committee lived up to its nickname again on Monday, even though the Democrat-controlled panel was hearing a proposal sponsored by their own leader, House Speaker Mark Ferrandino.

Against Ferrandino's wishes, the House State, Veterans and Military Affairs amended his proposal to ban red light cameras and photo radar vans across the state, gutting the measure by turning it into a mere study of whether the technology used by many cities is actually improving public safety as mayors and police chiefs claim.

But Senate Bill 181, which moves now to the House Appropriations Committee, isn't dead just yet, because Ferrandino can try to find the votes to strip out the amendment and return the proposal to its original form and possibly amend the bill in other ways that might get it to the governor's desk.

"I think good things will come from this," Rep. Su Ryden, D-Aurora, the committee chairwoman, told Ferrandino after her amendment passed on a 6-5 vote.

Ferrandino, D-Denver, in his final weeks in office, was nonplussed.

"I don't think we need to study this anymore," he said.

Ferrandino and the bill's other supporters don't believe the red light cameras and photo radar vans many cities use improve public safety so much as they generate revenue.

"We are automating the enforcement of our laws at the goal of increasing revenues and not public safety," he said.

S.B. 181 is that rare piece of legislation with support from the far left and the far right (Ferrandino's co-sponsor, Rep. Steve Humphrey, R-Severance, is one of the most conservative lawmakers in the House, known for sponsoring an abortion ban).

But police chiefs and metro area mayors are united in opposition to the measure.

"These photo red light cameras and photo radars have helped to reduce accidents," said Denver Mayor Michael Hancock Monday in an interview with FOX31 Denver.

"I don't believe it's fair game to play politics with the public safety of our citizens."

According to Hancock, accidents have dropped 40 percent at the busy intersection of 6th Avenue and Speer Boulevard since red light cameras were installed; and the employment of cameras has allowed Denver's police department to stretch an already thin force to cover more of the city.

Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey also told lawmakers Monday that his office has used footage from red light cameras to solve violent crimes, including hit and runs.

Morrissey scoffed at the notion that cities were using the cameras to generate revenue.

"There's no revenue if you don't run the red light," he said.

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22 comments

  • colocaver

    Why are those able to control us through use of force, also in a position to profit, the only ones FRANTICALLY grasping to save it?

    Maybe it “does” all the things they say…

    But the Congress, the People, and the 4th Amendment say – they gotta GO!!

  • James Walker

    An independent audit of Denver’s red light cameras showed no conclusive safety gains. Denver officials are just desperately trying to hold onto their cash cow machines.

    Colorado residents should call the Governor and their Representatives and Senators to say you want SB181 passed in its original form WITHOUT this “make it a study” amendment. Tell them clearly you want all ticket cameras banned in Colorado and that this issue will affect your future votes.

    James C. Walker, Life Member-National Motorists Association

  • Dan Hyatt

    I guess the mayor and police chief go to the red light camera company college of mathematics.
    Because when someone else besides those who benefit financially from red light cameras get raw statistics we are finding the accidents tend to go up 30-40%. This is Missouri data..

    Isnt it much cheaper to properly engineer the light???

  • Paul Henry

    This vote (it was actually 7-4) illustrates how the camera scheme is not the usual D vs R or blue vs red issue. It is in fact a red, white, and blue (American justice) vs green (money) issue.

    Of the 11 members on the committee, 7 are Democrats and 4 are Republicans. Of the 7 Democrats, 4 voted to kill the ban and 3 voted to pass the ban. Of the 4 Republicans, 3 voted to kill the ban and 1 voted to pass the ban.

    Greedy and corrupt politicians can only fool the people for so long. This vote must be remembered at the next election, and those voting yes must be voted out of office.

    Here’s the actual amendment vote breakdown (a YES vote killed the ban):
    Conti (R): No
    Dore (R): Yes
    Foote (D): Yes
    Humphrey (R): Yes
    Labuda (D): Yes (amendment sponsor)
    Melton (D): No
    Moreno (D): Yes
    Nordberg (R): Yes
    Williams (D): No
    Salazar (D): No
    Ryden (D): Yes

    Final YES: 7 NO: 4
    Tally by party:
    D: Yes= 4 of 7 No= 3 of 7
    R: Yes= 3 of 4 No= 1 of 4

    In other words, 57% of Democrats and 75% of Republicans voted against the ban.

    • Paul Henry

      Ann’s suggestion is basically don’t run the light and you won’t get a ticket. While that is the case when police enforce the law, it is not always the case when the automated for-profit system is used. Vehicle owners have been ticketed for going through a flashing yellow light, copied tags have been used, a 1-digit difference caused a license suspension for an innocent owner, the person that stopped was “cropped in” by the scheme vendor while the violator was “cropped out”, an officer guessed at a tag and mailed a ticket, etc.

      Thanks to the guilty until proved innocent nature of the camera scheme, each of these owners had the burden of proof upon them to prove they did not break the law (and most had to go to the media to get justice even though the photo evidence exonerated them). That concept has worked well in places such as pre-1992 Russia, but in America you are supposed to be innocent until proved guilty. Greed and corruption by local and state officials places the almighty dollar above American justice.

  • Harold Seaward

    I can only imagine the deal making, favors and pay-offs happening behind the scenes. To a politician, laws are nothing but leverage. Ever watched “House of Cards”?

  • Paul Henry

    The District Attorney is quoted as saying” “There’s no revenue if you don’t run the red light,”

    It’s unfortunate someone as educated as he is unaware of what happens when you turn law enforcement into a for-profit scheme. While what he said is the case when police enforce the law, it is not always the case when the automated for-profit system is used. Vehicle owners have been ticketed for going through a flashing yellow light, copied tags have been used, a 1-digit difference caused a license suspension for an innocent owner, the person that stopped was “cropped in” by the scheme vendor while the violator was “cropped out”, an officer guessed at a tag and mailed a ticket, etc.

    Thanks to the guilty until proved innocent nature of the camera scheme, each of these owners had the burden of proof upon them to prove they did not break the law (and most had to go to the media to get justice even though the photo evidence exonerated them). That concept has worked well in places such as pre-1992 Russia, but in America you are supposed to be innocent until proved guilty. Greed and corruption by local and state officials places the almighty dollar above American justice. As an attorney, he should understand the importance of the 5th and 6th Amendments.

  • Paul Henry

    “According to Hancock, accidents have dropped 40 percent at the busy intersection of 6th Avenue and Speer Boulevard since red light cameras were installed”

    The “percentage game” in use again! Here’s how it works:
    One year, there are 10 crashes at an intersection. The following year there are 6. While it is an ACTUAL reduction of only 4 (and well within normal fluctuation- two years prior there may have been 12 or 4), it is a PERCENTAGE reduction of 40%. Which sounds better? Look at the legislative vote- only 3 Republicans voted to kill the ban, but it was 75%!

    Is the camera scheme only used at this intersection? What of the others? How many ACTUAL red light violation crashes have taken place for equal periods of time before and after use of the camera scheme? Why is it local officials, who are in the revenue stream from the camera scheme, never want to disclose this information? Instead we hear of fuzzy math involving percentages, “t-bone” or angle crashes. Angle crashes are most often caused by failure to yield, not a red light violation. In 2014, it’s very easy to categorize crash data by cause. What are these local officials hiding?

  • Paul Henry

    Did the “40% reduction” Denver mayor read the 2011 Denver city performance audit? If he had done so, he’d see there were 4 camera scheme intersections, not just the 1 he mentioned, and the auditor’s summary said:

    “Unfortunately, DPD has not demonstrated that the photo radar program has a positive impact on public safety.”

    and:

    “While we have concerns about the demonstrable safety impact of
    both photo enforcement programs, we note as of October 2011 both programs generated more revenue than the amount budgeted for 2011. 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.”

    Here’s the full report:
    http://www.thenewspaper.com/rlc/docs/2011/co-denveraudit.pdf

  • Bill Easter

    6th Amendment: In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

      • Paul Henry

        I suspect what Bill was getting at is the 6th Amendment requires witnesses in court in CRIMINAL cases. The 5th requires the burden of proof for proving a CRIMINAL violation rests upon the government, as it should.

        The camera scheme avoids both of these by making the violations non-criminal. Scheme supporters often try to justify this by equating camera scheme tickets to parking and toll tickets. However, no one is ever killed or injured by a car parked 1 hour past the meter or for someone not paying a toll.

    • Paul Henry

      DUI drivers cause far more death and injury than do red light violators. How about a law that places a camera outside of every bar and tickets vehicles parked there? We can decriminalize the violation (for cameras only) knock down the fine, withhold adjudication, and make the owner guilty unless they ID someone else. Ditto domestic violence. Where do we stop in order to “keep us safe”?

      Are you old enough to recognize this pattern of law enforcement? It’s nothing our country was founded upon. Even Russia changed their constitution in 1992 to recognize innocent until proved guilty. Our corrupt politicians and local officials are willing to reverse that for the almighty dollar.

  • Todd Gatseos

    Ann Pirie, you spend a lot of time commenting on various subjects and you seem to feel that the only people that have anything to worry about are “criminals”. You clearly have no understanding of the corruption, entitlement, and blatant disregard for human freedom by “law enforcement” and “the judicial system”. I suggest that you stop watching Fox news or CNN and try THINKING for a change. Cameras don’t prevent actions, they simply record them. I feel confident that you are one of the people that would have turned in your Jewish neighbor to the Nazi’s because it was “the law.” Laws are only opinions and they are generally enforced by mindless automatons that follow orders without question. I suspect that if your home was the subject of a “no-knock raid” and your son or daughter was killed by some thugs in uniform you might think differently about who had the right to impose their will on you. In the mean time, why don’t you try thinking outside the box and realize that just because some bureaucrat or some monkey in a uniform says it doesn’t make it true? As for breaking the city’s coffers, try placing some blame on the cops that break the laws they are supposed to enforce and cost the city millions of dollars EVERY year. Get a clue…

  • Tom Sanders

    LOOK at all the words used to comment on this……here is how simple this is…..there is no proof these lights save lives regardless whether some spots where it is used show some favorable reductions…they are used everywhere where not needed to gouge the public and your gutless politicians won’t do anything…it’s all about the money everytime.

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