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Author Topic: Chicago Red light cameras tag thousands for undeserved tickets  (Read 9845 times)

Brandon

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Re: Chicago Red light cameras tag thousands for undeserved tickets
« Reply #25 on: September 02, 2014, 12:06:39 PM »

Not guilty pleas in red light camera bribery scheme

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A former Chicago transportation manager and his longtime friend both pleaded not guilty today to bribery charges in an alleged $2 million scheme to rig the contract for the city's red light camera program.

John Bills is accused of conspiring with top officials at Redflex Traffic Systems Inc. to help them win the contract and grow the camera system into the largest in North America. His friend, Martin O'Malley, is accused of  funneling bribe money from Redflex to Bills.

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O'Malley, the Chicago-based consultant for Redflex since its city contract began in 2003, has admitted that much of the $2 million he was paid by the company was used as payoffs to Bills, who oversaw the traffic camera program from the beginning, according to sources familiar with the investigation and O'Malley's attorney.

Former Redflex CEO Karen Finley, who was indicted last month along with Bills and O'Malley, is expected to plead not guilty at her own arraignment on bribery charges next week.
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dave069

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Re: Chicago Red light cameras tag thousands for undeserved tickets
« Reply #26 on: September 02, 2014, 08:35:07 PM »

I'm hoping this brings an end to the RL cam program in Chicago or at least better regulation. No more yellow lights that are too short please!
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Brandon

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Re: Chicago Red light cameras tag thousands for undeserved tickets
« Reply #27 on: October 09, 2014, 07:02:47 AM »

I'm hoping this brings an end to the RL cam program in Chicago or at least better regulation. No more yellow lights that are too short please!

Speaking of which...

(Behind paywall)

Shorter yellow times are now the ticket

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A Tribune examination of overturned red light tickets revealed evidence that the city of Chicago has quietly cast a wider net to snare drivers since switching camera vendors earlier this year amid a bribery scandal.

A before-and-after analysis of photographic evidence and interviews with experts suggests the transition to a new vendor last spring was accompanied by a subtle but significant lowering of the threshold for yellow light times.

City hearing officers have noticed the trend and are increasingly tossing tickets because the yellow light time stamped on the citation is less than the 3-second minimum required by the city, the Tribune analysis showed.

Xerox State & Local Solutions took over the program in March. Since April, hearing officers have cited short yellow lights as the reason for throwing out more than 200 of roughly 1,500 rejected red light tickets, according to their written notations. In the four years before that, under the old vendor, judges blamed short yellows only 37 times out of more than 12,000 successful appeals, according to their written notes.

It's a rate 50 times higher than when the old vendor, Redflex Traffic Systems Inc., ran the program.

Sounds like Chicago is greedy.  No big shocker there.

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In the course of uncovering troubling and unexplained spikes involving tens of thousands of tickets during Redflex's tenure, the Tribune reported in July that it found hundreds of cases where yellow light times fluctuated between 4 and 3 seconds. But the Redflex tickets rarely went below 3 seconds, the newspaper found.

Officials at Xerox and Redflex declined to be interviewed for this report, referring all questions to the city.

Asked why hearing officers hired by Emanuel's administration to enforce the traffic laws are routinely throwing out the tickets if the time is allowable, Scheinfeld said the hearing officers are independent.

Gail Baikie was among the drivers who won because of short yellow times. The security guard was ticketed twice within 20 minutes on May 18 on her way home from work.

"I am really disappointed with the city, and upset that they would try to take advantage of people like that," said Baikie, 38, of Skokie.

Both tickets were overturned by an administrative law judge because the yellow lights were too short, records show.

"I didn't even know about the 3-second rule," said Baikie, who appealed both tickets by mail arguing that she made two legal right turns. "I really think they need to fix this because so many people just pay these things without even thinking about it. That's just horrible."

I'm not surprised Chicago would try to take advantage of people like that.  Ever see their parking rules?

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Administrative law judges have thrown out 1,511 tickets from April 1 through Aug. 20, according to city records. In 222 cases, they noted in their written explanation that a yellow interval under 3 seconds was to blame. All but three of those tickets were from Xerox.

The Tribune found an additional 299 cases in which tossed tickets had yellow lights under 3 seconds but hearing officers did not specify their reasons. They often don't provide written explanations for rejecting a ticket when drivers appeal in person at a tape-recorded hearing.

Taken together, that means 521 tickets — more than a third of all those rejected since April — had short yellow times.

More than two dozen judges cited short yellow lights for rejecting citations, the Tribune found.

At least some of the hearing officers are honest and get it.

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In Baikie's cases, the hearing officer who tossed both tickets was William Kelley, who records show has thrown out 29 tickets since April because of short yellow lights.


"2.9 second Yellow. No Prima Facie case. Citizen prevails," Kelley wrote in the notes field on his computer for both the Baikie tickets in his Aug. 7 ruling.

In throwing out another driver's ticket July 29, Kelley wrote, "inconsistent evidence. City photograph shows 2.9-second yellow light. 3 seconds required by law. No prima facie case. Citizen prevails."

Similar language was used by other judges in tossing tickets with 2.9-second yellows.

"Illinois and federal standards for amber signal length is 3.0 secs. And city's website states its length for amber signal is 3.0 secs," wrote hearing officer Paul Gridelli in a July 31 ruling. "Since evidence shows city noncompliance w/ 3.0 sec. standard for amber signal, grtr wt. (greater weight) to R (respondent)."

Hearing officer Daniel Ruiz threw out a red light ticket June 12 with the following reasoning: "Amber light not on for the required 3.0 seconds. Only 2.9 seconds."

Shortening the yellow is both dangerous and wrong.  Maybe it should be made a felony as well?

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City officials have not yet complied with a Sept. 5 Tribune request for a database of recent red light camera tickets. Those records would help identify how many drivers were ticketed under short yellow lights.

Because fewer than 10 percent of all ticketed drivers ever bother to appeal red light tickets, it is possible that thousands of drivers have been dinged for fines they wouldn't have received before Xerox took over in April.

Don't worry, Chicago won't fully comply.  It's worth too much when they depend on it to try to balance their unbalanced budget.  There's bokoo bucks involved here.

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The city of Chicago sets all its traffic lights based on the shortest allowable time under federal safety guidelines, which suggest yellow intervals ranging from 3 to 6 seconds depending on the speed of traffic.

For traffic moving at 30 mph or less, the guidelines say the shortest allowable yellow light in order to give drivers enough time to stop is 3 seconds. Scheinfeld said all traffic lights with approach speeds of 30 mph are set for 3 seconds. At 35 mph, she said, the yellow light times move to 4 seconds.

Maybe they need to add a second per signal and have delayed red signals as well (which Chicago currently lacks).  Preemption devices on the signals for emergency vehicles might also make it safer without resorting to cameras.  Of course, that ruins the profit motive.

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Chicago's red light camera program has come under intense scrutiny following Tribune reports about an alleged corruption scheme in which the former top city official who oversaw the contract is accused of taking up to $2 million in bribes since the program began in 2003.

Those reports prompted Mayor Rahm Emanuel to fire Redflex and hand the contract over to Xerox.

In July, after a 10-month review that included an analysis of more than 4 million tickets, the Tribune reported about a series of suspicious spikes in red light camera tickets at intersections throughout the city that led to tens of thousands of questionable tickets. The Tribune's probe found evidence the spikes were caused by equipment malfunctions, human tinkering or both.

Inspector General Joseph Ferguson, who is working with federal agents investigating the corruption allegations, is also probing the potential causes of the ticket spikes. That investigation is looking at the possibilities that equipment malfunctions, changing enforcement criteria and short yellow times contributed to the wild swings in ticketing.

It's time to ban third-party traffic camera enforcement nation-wide, IMHO.
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Brandon

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Re: Chicago Red light cameras tag thousands for undeserved tickets
« Reply #28 on: October 10, 2014, 01:54:19 PM »

City's yellow light change caught 77,000 drivers

Roh-roh.

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The Emanuel administration quietly issued a new, shorter yellow light standard this spring that generated 77,000 red light camera tickets that would not have been allowed before the rule change, the city inspector general announced Friday.

The administration defended the $100 tickets -- and the nearly $8 million in revenue it will collect from them -- as valid. But the city agreed to Ferguson’s recommendation to end the new practice of issuing citations with yellow light times below 3 seconds.

It's all about the revenue.  Anyone who ever calls these about safety is either naive, stupid, or lying.

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The Tribune reported Thursday that its analysis of overturned tickets and interviews with experts suggested the Emanuel administration had made a subtle, but significant, change when it switched camera vendors this spring from the beleaguered Redflex Traffic Systems Inc. to Xerox State and Local Solutions. Hearing officers were suddenly throwing out hundreds of tickets that showed yellow light times at 2.9, below the 3-second minimum required by the city.

The city would not answer questions this week about whether it changed the yellow light standards, and Transportation Commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld declined to explain the mystery in a recent interview with the Tribune, saying only that the tickets were valid because they fell within an acceptable standard for electrical deviations.

Electrical deviation my ass.

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“At the City’s request Redflex categorically rejected any captured event with a recorded yellow light time below three seconds,” Ferguson wrote. “However, after Xerox took over the operations of the RLC program, the City directed Xerox to accept RLC violations with yellow light times above 2.9 seconds.”

The city said it relied on a national electrical industry standard that allows for deviations in the hundredths or thousandths of a second. Ferguson recommended the city should change the standard back “in order to improve public confidence” in the camera program.

The Tribune reported Thursday that its review of 1,500 overturned tickets since April revealed evidence that the city had changed the rules on yellow light times when Xerox took over.

In more than 200 of those cases, city hearing officers blamed yellow light times under the 3-second minimum required by the city. An additional 299 rejected tickets had yellow lights under 3 seconds, although judges did not specify that as the reason.

Why be honest when money is at stake?
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Brandon

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Re: Chicago Red light cameras tag thousands for undeserved tickets
« Reply #29 on: December 10, 2014, 09:36:32 AM »

Alleged Redflex bagman to plead guilty in Chicago red light camera case

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The alleged bagman in a $2 million bribery scandal over Chicago's red light camera program is scheduled to plead guilty Wednesday to paying kickbacks to a former top city transportation official for steering the lucrative contract to the company he represented, court records show.

Martin O'Malley, 73, the former Chicago-based consultant for Redflex Traffic Systems Inc., faces a single count of conspiracy to commit bribery.

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According to the indictment, O'Malley was hired by Redflex after Bills told him to answer an advertisement placed by Finley in 2003 looking for a Chicago consultant. Prosecutors say the arrangement was intended as a conduit to funnel bribe payments to Bills.

O'Malley gave Bills $570,000 in cash between 2004 and 2012, in addition to paying for some of Bills' personal debts and even buying a Gilbert, Ariz., condominium for Bills' use, prosecutors alleged. In addition, Redflex paid for hotel rooms, car rentals, meals, golf games, computers and other personal items for Bills, the indictment said.

Redflex's troubles in Chicago first erupted in October 2012 after the Tribune obtained a 2-year-old internal whistleblower memo written by an ousted Redflex vice president that detailed the alleged bribery scheme.

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The Chicago program grew into a marquee system for Redflex — the largest in the United States — and generated more than $500 million in $100 tickets for the cash-starved city.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel fired Redflex amid the scandal.

And hired ATS, already in trouble for the program in Baltimore.
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