Tag Archives: traffic enforcement

It’s now law: Cities cannot use technology to deter lawbreakers

Texas has taken a step back to where it was until the Legislature decided to allow cities to use technology to assist police in deterring those who break the law.

Count me as one Texan who’s disappointed in this decision.

Gov. Greg Abbott has signed legislation that now prohibits cities from deploying red-light cameras to catch those who disobey signals’ directions to stop. Abbott listened to the complainers who said the cameras are — and this just kills me — unconstitutional, that they disallow motorists busted by the devices to “confront their accuser.”

The owners of the vehicles that are busted can appeal the fines levied by municipal courts, which gives them the chance to confront the government.

Princeton, where I live, does not use the devices. Neither do neighboring cities Allen and McKinney. Denton, which is about 30 miles west on U.S. 380, uses the devices.

The Legislature did allow for cities to keep the cameras operating for the length of their existing contract with the vendors that supply them. After that, they come down!

Cities and towns long have been thought to be the best judge of their own needs. Many cities in Texas have deemed that they need help from these devices to help police in enforcing traffic laws. Why not let the cities make that call? Why not cede “local control” to the cities?

The Legislature doesn’t see it that way. Neither does Gov. Abbott.

I believe they have made a mistake.

City boosts traffic improvements … with camera money?

The Amarillo City Council has voted 5-0 to spend more than $200,000 with money earmarked for traffic safety improvements.

The Amarillo Globe-News story doesn’t mention it specifically, but this is the kind of expense that state law requires of cities that deploy red-light cameras at troublesome intersections.

As the Globe-News reports: Officials said the purchase, which extends to four separate vendors, will fund new equipment and replace outdated equipment and other signal materials.

Read the story here.

This is why I continue to support the principle of cities using this technology to help deter lawbreakers from running through red lights. Amarillo has used these devices for several yeas, raising considerable amounts of money from fines collected by violators.

The bitching has been tiresome … and wrongheaded. Red-light camera foes keep insisting that the city is using this technology as a money-maker to fund this or that project. Wrong! State law says cities must dedicate that revenue to traffic safety improvements. Nothing else! It’s dedicated revenue.

To its credit, the City Council hasn’t backed down in the face of a vocal minority of residents who continue to yammer about the cameras. They cite such idiocy as the cameras intruding on motorists’ privacy. Interesting, yes?

Consider that motorists who drive their vehicles on public streets therefore surrender their “privacy” when they break the law and put other motorists and pedestrians in jeopardy.

The city is spending some money on needed improvements to its traffic signalization and other elements of its traffic management plan. If it comes from the revenue collected by red-light camera enforcement, so much for the better.

Unconstitutional? Umm. Nope!

An Amarillo resident has joined an amen chorus being sung by those who suggest that red-light cameras, which the city has deployed to deter those who run through stop lights, is “unconstitutional.”

Why is that? Because it violates the Sixth Amendment that guarantees that those who are accused of wrongdoing have the right to confront their accuser.

John Faulkner wrote this, in part, to the Amarillo Globe-News in a letter to the editor: A red-light camera photograph is hearsay, and is therefore inadmissible under the Sixth Amendment. It is hearsay because you cannot cross examine the photograph or the camera. The Sixth Amendment gives defendants the right to confront their accuser. 

Sigh. Actually, it is not “hearsay.” This equipment provides physical evidence that someone has run through a red light when he or she is supposed to obey its “instruction” to stop and not proceed until the light turns green.

Furthermore, the city grants accused red-light runners the opportunity to appeal the fine levied against the alleged lawbreaker. Thus, a defendant is granted the right to face his or her accuser.

The constitutionality argument is funny, except that I ain’t laughing.

The Texas Legislature granted cities the authority to install these cameras. It attached some provisions on it, such as requiring cities to devote revenue collected strictly to traffic improvements. The attorney general’s office is full of bright legal minds who can determine the constitutionality of laws the Legislature enacts. City Hall also employs a legal team that ensures its ordinances pass constitutional muster.

So, let’s toss aside this silly argument.

The red-light cameras are doing what they are intended to do. They are deterring some motorists from misbehaving while they travel along our busy streets. Not all of them, for sure.

I remain a strong supporter of this technology. It works.