[Politech] Warning about fake "tickets" from red light cameras [priv]

From: Declan McCullagh (declan@private)
Date: Mon Jan 31 2005 - 20:58:37 PST

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: 	Red light cameras - fake tickets
Date: 	Sun, 30 Jan 2005 17:28:39 -0800
From: 	editor <editor@private>
Reply-To: 	editor@private
To: 	declan@private

For Declan -

I do a site about red light camera tickets.   Back in 2002 you had a
thread about the cameras, so I figured you might be interested in a
little update for politechbot.

There's been a number of prominent newspaper articles recently, but when
the commercial media discuss the cameras, there's a couple issues they
always leave out.

Issue # 1.  At least nine cities in California are sending out fake red
light camera tickets, to get you to identify the driver, so that they
can send the driver a real ticket.  It's a great con game - most people,
not having heard anything about it in the press, fall for it. And, while
the fake tickets are fully bilingual, I think that those not as familiar
with American courts (and such things as the 5th Amendment) are much
more likely to be fooled.

I have a section on my website about the fake tickets, in case you need
additional info.  The url is
http://www.highwayrobbery.net/redlightcamsticket.htm#Fakes and the fake
ticket info, including some sample fake tickets, is under "Police Going
Too Far...."

This is some of the info from the website -

"If your "ticket" does not have the address and phone number of the
court on it, or if it says, "Do not contact the court," it's not really
a ticket at all.  It's a fake, probably generated by the police (fake
ticket examples:  El Cajon
<http://www.highwayrobbery.net/redlightcamsdocsElCajonmain.html>,  Vista
<http://www.highwayrobbery.net/redlightcamsdocsVistamain.html>), but it
could have been printed up by a clever confidence man who hopes you will
give him your credit card number.  (For more about con men, see the end
of this section.)
The official format for a real ticket
<http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/forms/documents/tr115.pdf> is on the
website of the Judicial Council of California.

"This section is about police trickery and bluffing !

"In some towns the police are going to extraordinary lengths to get
registered owners, or members of their household, to identify the
driver.  In those towns, if the technicians reviewing the photos see
that the pictured driver is obviously not the registered owner (gender
mismatch, or great difference in age) or that the photo is too blurry to
be sure of who it is, one tactic they frequently use is to send the
registered owner an official-looking notice telling him that he must
identify the driver, within 10 days.  (In the business, they call these
notices a "nomination.")

"Why do they do it?

"So far, the common thread is that all these "Police Going Too Far..."
cities use RedFlex as their camera vendor and have contracts (signed
before 2004) requiring them to pay RedFlex approx. $90 for each real
ticket issued.  These cities send the registered owner a notice (fake
ticket) - which the City doesn't have to pay RedFlex for - when they see
that the face photo is of such poor quality that it would probably not
be accepted by a judge as proof of who the driver was.  Sending you the
fake ticket is the police's attempt to get you to identify the driver,
thus providing them that proof.  Once you have filled-out the blanks on
the fake ticket form, the police can be pretty sure that a ticket will
stick and that they will be able to recoup the $90 it will cost them to
have a real one issued.  So they go ahead and have RedFlex issue (print
up and mail) one."

Issue # 2.  There's a big incentive for the cities, and the camera
companies, to set the yellows very short.  Here in California our
legislature passed a law, 3 years ago, setting a minimum yellow for
_straight-through_ traffic.  While the mandated straight-through
minimums are on the short side, nonetheless it has caused the lucrative
enforcement to shift to left turns, for which the minimum yellow is just
3.0 seconds.  And right turns.  But there's no evidence that people
turning left or right cause the horrible accidents that the authorities
say they want to prevent (see the analyses I did of several
heavily-enforced intersections - under Hawthorne Documents Set #3,
Culver City Documents Set # 12, and Costa Mesa Documents Set #10).  But,
if we nonetheless accept that it's a reasonable goal to decrease
left-turn runners, there's an alternative to heavy ticketing.  If you
will look at the Mesa, Arizona Ticket Counts table (see Mesa, Arizona on
the Camera Towns page of my website), you'll see that left turn
violations go way down, and stay down, when drivers are given a
reasonable amount of yellow.  And for straight through movements, the
Ticket Counts table on the Costa Mesa (California) Documents page shows
that just a few tenths of a second longer yellow makes a significant
decrease in the number of tickets.

I hope you find this of interest.



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