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L.A. traffic cameras may get the red light

Citing costs and safety issues, the Police Commission votes to shut the cameras down. Unless the City Council intervenes, their use at 32 intersections could end within weeks.

June 08, 2011|By Joel Rubin, Los Angeles Times

Bart Reed, executive director of the Transit Coalition, a local advocacy group, voiced support for red-light cameras, saying they help keep in check "many wild and crazy motorists on the streets that have no bounds or respect on the safety or security of others."

Councilman Greig Smith, who heads the council's Public Safety Committee, agreed with the commission, saying the program has been a drain on city finances. He added that the cameras had only a "marginal" effect on traffic safety and said he doubted that his colleagues on the City Council would find the 10 votes needed to overturn the commission's decision.

"I don't think anyone on the council wants to get up and be the proponent of bringing it back to life," he said. "No one's been a big fan over here."

Similarly, Councilman Dennis Zine commended the commission's decision, calling the camera program flawed and a waste of taxpayer money.

"It's a dishonest program," said Zine, a former traffic cop. "This thing really mocks the public."

Several months ago, the council granted the LAPD the authority to seek bidders for a new camera contract and allowed the department to expedite the process. If they allow the cameras to go dark and there are accidents at the intersections, council members could face political scorn and possible lawsuits.

Councilman Tony Cardenas, who has been a supporter of the cameras, said he would ask the City Council to get involved in the matter only if the courts begin aggressive enforcement of the tickets.

Under the provisions of the City Charter, the council would need 10 votes to take jurisdiction over the commission's decision. If the council mustered enough votes to do so, the red-light camera contract issue would then go to the council's five-member public safety committee, which is headed by Smith.

Los Angeles Times staff writers Ari Bloomekatz, David Zahniser and Kate Linthicum contributed to this report.

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