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Red-Light Cameras Come to a Full Stop

Candid L.A. councilman says they were turned off in June and may remain shuttered till 2006.

November 01, 2005|Jia-Rui Chong | Times Staff Writer

No, it wasn't good fortune that let you run that red light without getting a ticket in the mail.

The city's red-light cameras haven't been working since June and could remain idle for several more months, a Los Angeles official said Monday.

The contract for operating the cameras, which take photos of drivers who plow through a red light, expired as the city was deciding which company to choose for the next contract, Councilman Dennis Zine said.

"I'd say it's a victim of bureaucracy," Zine said. "I'd be surprised if any of them were online before next year."

Los Angeles has red-light cameras at 16 intersections across the city -- a tiny fraction of the total signaled crossings but a looming force for motorists who drive by them each day. In the first four years that Affiliated Computer Services operated the cameras, officials issued 63,000 citations and recorded a drop in the number of traffic collisions, according to a city report.

Zine said the city did not inform the public that the service had stopped, but he felt he should be candid about the situation.

"There's an advantage until the public finds out they're not doing anything," he said. "It's like parking a police car in front of a building and not having a police officer nearby. What good does that do? It's good until people realize there's a police car parked there and there's no one connected to the car."

It's not exactly clear why the city let the service stop. But Zine expressed concerns about the consequences for drivers, especially as the holiday season approaches and the danger of drunk driving increases.

Affiliated Computer Services' contract was set to expire in June 2004, and the city decided to seek proposals from other companies to provide the camera service. The city extended the contract to June 14, 2005, but as of that date had not agreed on a replacement, Zine said.

The city and the vendor also dispute who was responsible for taking cameras down, he added.

On Monday, the council's Public Safety Committee voted on a recommendation for the new contract, which would pay a company $15 million over five years to operate 32 automated red-light cameras. The committee voted 3 to 2 to recommend Nestor Traffic Systems. In a previous vote, the Police Commission also recommended Nestor.

Zine said he and Councilman Greig Smith opposed the plan because they wanted to do a pilot project to help the city choose between Nestor and another vendor, Redflex, which scored only 3 points lower than Nestor in a city analysis.

Before the shutdown, police officials were so pleased with the drop in accidents at intersections with cameras that they talked about expanding the program.

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