Another well-financed effort to permit controversial red light cameras is under way in Connecticut, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut is again working to oppose it.
Three separate bills - Senate Bill No. 634 and House Bills No. 5554 and 6056 - have been proposed to allow red light cameras in the state's larger municipalities. The cameras would take photos and videos of vehicles at intersections, allowing municipalities to send tickets to the owners of cars allegedly caught in a violation.
The ACLU of Connecticut objects to the cameras on many grounds, including threats to due process and privacy. The camera systems ticket the registered owner of the car, regardless of who was driving. Weeks or months may pass between the alleged violation and the issuance of the ticket, impairing the owner's ability to recall the incident and put up an adequate defense. And there are concerns about the collection of license plate data to track drivers, even those who committed no infraction.
"Our objections to red light cameras haven't changed on civil liberties grounds, and everything we've heard in the past year make them look even worse as public policy," Andrew Schneider, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut, told reporters. "I hope these developments will show legislators in Connecticut what happens when you privatize law enforcement at the expense of the public's civil liberties."
In testimony before the legislature's Transportation Committee, Schneider pointed out that in Chicago, the mayor has dropped the red light camera vendor after revelations that the city official in charge of the program received thousands of dollars in perks and travel expenses and a friend received more than $500,000 in commissions. And many cities have abandoned their red light camera programs. In California alone, these include Los Angeles, San Diego, Pasadena, Murrieta, Glendale, San Juan Capistrano and Corona.
"These communities have learned hard lessons about privatized, outsourced, for-profit, automated law enforcement, lessons that we need not repeat in Connecticut," Schneider testified. "They've learned that red light cameras enrich for-profit vendors and fail to provide the promised safety benefits and revenues for municipalities. They're also wildly unpopular with the public, who view them as a cynical cash grab."
The NAACP of Connecticut also joined in opposition to red light cameras. Abdul-Shahid Muhammad Ansari, president of the Greater Hartford Chapter of the NAACP and political chair of the state organization, told the Transportation Committee that the placement of cameras in large municipalities would aim them squarely at minority populations.
- February 28, 2013
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