Herrmann explains speed enforcement can have a ripple effect. “You’re changing behavior in the location where the camera is, but also at other places. Accidents go down in nearby intersections. We’re changing awareness and we’re doing it a lot more efficiently than taking an officer away from other duties.”
There are multiple facets to the automated speed enforcement argument that have agencies, city managers and community members concerned which includes, in particular, legal battles surrounding the technology.
Public/private collaboration and revenue Many agencies contract out their speed enforcement, some include revenue sharing, which has created controversy. “The issue is safety,” says Herrmann. “They are too skeptical. Their arguments, to me, don’t measure up to all the safety factors, to saving lives.” Herrmann explains the speed-camera business is a collaboration with law enforcement agencies, much like businesses providing vests or handcuffs.
“We have worked very hard to develop and refine the technology, and look for new tools,” he states. “No one knows the area more than local law enforcement. [They] know the community, where the most dangerous places are, and where to put the trucks. They know what their community needs and we can provide the technology that lets them do it most efficiently.”
He also explains revenue neutral contracts: “For example, if the contract calls for the city to pay us $100, but their revenue is $75, in many cases they will only pay based on that $75,” he says. “We’re not looking to collect revenue to the detriment of the cities.”
Recently, issues in Washington state have cropped up in a public outcry against the collaboration with American Traffic Solution (ATS). Many of the issues revolve around what citizens see as too-cozy relationships between police department management and the business, including sharing public relations duties and attending expense-paid ATS events.
Are they legal? Another controversy in South Carolina brings up the issue of law and legislative support. Departments need to know whether photo enforcement is legal in their jurisdiction. Certain states and different areas within those states have laws detailing the placement of cameras, the requirements for a citation to be valid and how the revenue can be spent. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) provides a good list of these.
Law enforcement managers in Ridgeland, S.C., found themselves in court and at odds with the state government over differences in opinion. After using fixed cameras on I-95 through the city, political outcry began when legislation decided to reiterate the ban on photo enforcement, and increased the ability to enforce consequences against agencies that defy the ban. Due to the pending litigation, iTraffic LLC, the company utilized by Ridgeland, could not comment.
“Those objections are typical around the country,” Herrmann states. “Our goal is to educate, so people are aware of just how many violations there are in an intersection and how dangerous they are. People need to look at the impact of speed and the impact of cameras on these behaviors. I think we’ll win that debate. It’s a slow process because those people hold their objections so tightly.”
“Communities want to save lives,” says Adkins. “When the laser came out, people doubted what it could do, but as they saw it saved lives, it became the norm.”
Police discretion One of the original arguments against the legality of photo enforcement was that law enforcement duties were outsourced to a private company. Currently, most agencies utilize services that put the discretion over whom to ticket back into the hands of the agency. “We are trying to provide technology that helps law enforcement do its job,” states Herrmann. “But they are making all the law enforcement calls. They are deciding where the van or fixed unit will be put in place, what the threshold speed will be. Once they get the photograph, law enforcement makes the final decision on whether it’s something they want to enforce or not. We provide technology so officers can make those decisions.”