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Judge Shames California City, City Dumps Red Light Cameras
Laguna Woods, California dumps red light cameras after judge accused the city of perjury.

Laguna Woods sign
The photo enforcement industry is in free fall in California. Once there were more than one hundred municipalities allowing private companies to issue red light camera tickets in the state, but now there are just 43 operational programs left after the city of Laguna Woods decided last week to allow the photo ticketing contract with the troubled Australian vendor Redflex Traffic Systems to expire on June 30, bringing the red light camera casualty list to 62 cities.

Since 2005, the Laguna Woods program has issued an average of 2919 citations per year, worth $1.4 million. According to the city, there was no demonstrable safety benefit.

"Staff studied incidents over a ten-year period of time (fiscal year 2001-02 through 2010-11) and found that the number of collisions related to signal violations at the two photo enforced intersections fluctuated slightly but did not change in any significant manner after initiation of the red light photo enforcement program," Laguna Woods City Manager Christopher Macon wrote in a memo to the city council.

Attorney R. Allen Baylis says the city has another motivation for dumping the cameras. The city has been losing in court because it has been caught issuing a $500 red light running ticket to a 64-year-old vehicle owner when it is very clear that a young driver is behind the wheel. Driver identity matters because California photo tickets apply points against the driver's license.

"According to the testimony at trial, deputies reviewing photo enforcement evidence for the city of Laguna Woods routinely do not obtain or view a Department of Motor Vehicles Soundex photograph of the registered owner of the vehicle depicted in the photographs, and do not compare that photograph against the photographs obtained from the automated enforcement system, prior to issuing a notice to appear to the registered owner," Orange County Superior Court Commissioner Max B. De Liema wrote in a May 8 ruling.

The city refused to go to the effort of identifying the drivers, as state law requires. Tickets must also be issued within fifteen days, and the city believes many citations would go unissued before the clock runs out if it thoroughly examined the evidence before approving the citations prepared by Redflex.

"It basically comes down to laziness," Baylis told TheNewspaper. "They think the ends justify the means."

The court blasted Laguna Woods for creating an "ethical miasma" by issuing tickets without probable cause, creating a negative impression to the public that the court is a "co-participant" in the effort. The commissioner was particularly disturbed that all tickets bear the signature of police officers swearing under penalty of perjury that the facts on the notice are true and correct.

"Although the verification is qualified by the statement that it is declared 'on information and belief and is based on photographic evidence,' it is unclear how the officer can have 'information and belief' that the named defendant is the driver, when he or she has not reviewed the DMV Soundex photo of the registered owner, or any other evidence which demonstrates that the named person is the driver," Commissioner De Liema ruled. "The city's practice of having officers sign the notice to appear without reviewing a photograph of the registered owner is arguably a routine practice of perjury by the officers."

Throughout California, nearly sixty cities have dropped their red light camera programs, including Belmont, Bell Gardens, Berkeley, Burlingame, Compton, Corona, Costa Mesa, Cupertino, El Cajon, El Monte, Escondido, Emeryville, Fairfield, Fresno, Fullerton, Gardena, Glendale, Grand Terrace, Hayward, Highland, Indian Wells, Irvine, Lancaster, Loma Linda, Los Angeles, Long Beach, Maywood, Montclair, Moreno Valley, Oakland, Paramount, Pasadena, Poway, Rancho Cucamonga, Redlands, Redwood City, Rocklin, Roseville, Rowland Heights, San Bernardino, San Carlos, San Diego, San Jose (photo radar), San Juan Capistrano, Santa Fe Springs, Santa Maria, Santa Rosa,South Gate, Union City, Upland, Walnut, Whittier, Yuba City and Yucaipa. The city councils of Laguna Niguel and Orange passed ordinances banning cameras in 2011. Residents of Anaheim, Murrieta and Newport Beach voted to ban red light cameras at the ballot box.

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