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June 21, 2011 > LA officials delay ruling on red-light cameras

LA officials delay ruling on red-light cameras

By Daisy Nguyen, Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP), Jun 17 - The City Council decided Friday to delay a decision on whether to keep red-light traffic cameras on for another year amid a debate over the financial and public safety merits of the program.

Two councilmen, Tony Cardenas and Bernard Parks, proposed asking a police oversight board to keep American Traffic Solutions Inc., the Scottsdale, Ariz., company that operates cameras at 32 city intersections, on a month-to-month contract for up to a year when the current contract expires July 31.

The cameras are at risk of going dark in about two months, after the Police Commission rejected a proposal by police officials to sign a new three- or five-year contract with the company.

Commission members unanimously agreed to discontinue the camera enforcement program after concluding it has not been cost-effective. That's partly because judges refuse to impose penalties on violators who fail to pay their tickets, so many citations go uncollected.

Commission members also questioned the cameras' safety value.

Proponents urged the council Friday to continue the program, arguing the cameras help prevent traffic accidents and fatalities.

Parks, the city's former police chief, said the cameras were never intended to make a profit for the city.

``I don't understand why there are people quibbling about revenue,'' he said. ``This is about saving lives.''

American Traffic Solutions is offering a ``cost neutral'' provision in the contract to ensure the city won't lose money operating the program. ATS promises to only accept the revenue that's been generated if the city doesn't make enough in a given month to meet the monthly $256,000 fee for operating the cameras.

Councilman Paul Koretz said the commission had thoroughly examined the issues before voting in favor of turning off the cameras. He criticized Cardenas and Parks for attempting to ``dance around'' the commission's decision.

The council is scheduled to continue the debate Tuesday.

The program has been under fire after an audit last year found that paying ATS to operate the cameras and officers to review video of red-light violations and issue tickets, coupled with the lack of revenue, cost the city $2.5 million over a two-year period.

The audit also raised doubt about the effectiveness of the program since not all the cameras were installed in the most dangerous intersections.

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