“Mommy, where do speed cameras come from?”

On this issue the “reporters” in our local media are a real let-down. They take the speed camera’s press release, sprinkle in a few quotes from local government officials and maybe a citizen or two, and then regurgitate it to us as “news.” No investigation, no fact-checking, not even any independent thought. Just a rehash of the company’s official take and presto, now it’s “facts.”

Only Bill Torpy of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution did any kind of digging on the subject and boy are his findings eye-opening!

“The proposal won the day because we all want our children to be safe. Also, it didn’t hurt that the effort was being pushed by lobbyist Matt Ralston, who represents a company selling the camera systems to local governments. Lobbyist Matt’s dad is House Speaker David Ralston, who allowed the bill to be approved past the midnight deadline of the legislative session’s final night

The bill had an unstoppable twofer in its favor — it was “for the kids” (a strong, sentimental favorite) and it carried real political clout (an even better predictor of success).”

— Bill Torpy, AJC

Is Georgia Racing to Join a United Nation of Speed Traps?
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

It’s mighty convenient that the camera company’s lobbyist is the son of our state’s Speaker of the House… The same man who pushed the bill through literally in the dead of night on the last day of the legislative session, past the usual cutoff point of new bills. That’s ok — it’s “for the kids.” Only a monster would be against school zone safety, right?

“The effort has a popular selling point: It costs nothing. At least that’s what police chiefs gush when they approach their city councils and county commissions. The formula seems to be 35 percent of the take goes to the for-profit tech company and 65 percent goes to the local jurisdiction, where it must be spent on public safety measures.

And the cops don’t have to do anything. They don’t have to run a radar gun or listen to civilians gripe about speed traps. They just watch the checks roll in.”

Greg Mauz, a researcher and activist with the Best Highway Safety Practices Institute, says that this is only the tip of the free money iceberg.

“And without a doubt, there will be mission creep. Getting laws passed for cameras in school zones is just the foot in the door, he said. Next, it will be road construction zones, and then “dangerous” roadways, and then …”

Yes, the “reporters” for almost every media outlet have done nothing to actually research these cameras. They just report on how the camera company came to town, the gross number of school zone speeders they discovered, and that the cameras don’t cost anything to the city. In fact, the fines are just civil matters; they don’t even go on your driving record. In every town it’s the same canned speech to sell the local politicians on the “urgent safety matter” for their schoolchildren. It seems to work too. You combine “for the children” with “bushels of free cash” and politicians can’t wait to sign!

By the way, you might be wondering “What happens if I refuse to pay these since they’re a civil matter?” The answer: you will be ineligible to renew your car’s tag the following year. Of course they’ll send the overdue fines to collections companies too, but they needed some kind of stick to force you to pay, right?

These speed cameras have another feature that isn’t being promoted nearly as much: they record the tag of every car that passes them, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The local police or state government do NOT own this data! RedSpeed is free to sell this data to anyone they wish. Even better, our police have to pay every time they want to query this data for their own investigations. Meanwhile there is no oversight as to who can access this data or how long it is retained.

“this is a distinctive safety issue for children in school zones, and on top of that, it’s an added benefit for having 24-hour LPRs (license plate readers) in both those areas.”

Clayton County School Zones Could Get Speed Cameras, Tag Readers
Clayton News-Daily

Notice that there in Jonesboro they’d make over $60,000 a day in fines. Not a bad haul for zero outlay. “(Police Chief) Callaway said Red Speed’s president “would like to come and address this council and do a presentation.”

I bet he would! For a million dollars a month he’d probably do just about anything. And that’s the problem.