UPDATE: Seeing Red Over 20 Proposed Red Light Cameras in Tamarac

Watch MSNBC how Red Light Cameras in Pembroke Pines are not paying for themselves

 UPDATE:  Commissioner Michelle Gomez told me last night  that these lights will be “Cost Neutral to the Residents”  which means these will not cost the city one cent.   This is good news because they are planning on approving these today and we will hold them to these 20 free lights at no cost to our residents.

Thank you Commissioner Gomez

When I walked into the Tamarac City Commission workshop today and saw the visitors all dressed up in suits, I thought to myself, “Someone is here to make money today.”

Sure enough, the Mayor and Commissioners heard a presentation from city staff members recommending awarding a three year contract to American Traffic Solutions or ATS at the commission meeting on Wednesday.

No test sites needed, to test the waters. City staff wants us to take the plunge and buy 20 red light cameras with a three year agreement costing $99,000 a month or $1,118,800 annually plus requiring BSO to hire or use two officers to review every ticket.

Did you know that there were 56 deaths in the entire state for running red lights in 2011? It’s a lot but certainly doesn’t justify the cost of cameras in our city.

ATS brought in a video presentation showing car after car at intersections getting t-boned or having a near miss, scaring the few that attended into believing that this was a common occurrence here.

Nowhere mentioned were statistics for the amount of car crashes due to people running red lights in our city.

According to Buddy Nevins with BrowardBeat, “This is a major handout to special interests. In this case American Traffic Solutions and its ilk. This is a new, ridiculous high fee on drivers with money added in to enrich a private out-of-state corporation.”

This revenue-raising measure will make ATS richer because they get a share of every $158 ticket that’s paid. Not only will there be plenty of money for ATS, the State of Florida and the residents of Tamarac get a cut.

Oh, don’t go thinking you’re going to get some of this money too. Do you really believe if they make money this windfall will benefit the residents? This will give the city even more money to spend on staff recommendations, and more money to hire additional police officers.

The very people that should be deterring our red light runners in the first place.

Have an opinion about Red Light cameras?  Unfortunately you only have less than 24 hours to contact  your Mayor and City Commissioners before they vote on Wednesday evening.

About Sharon Aron Baron

Sharon Aron Baron

Sharon Aron Baron is the Editor of Talk Media and writer for Tamarac Talk and Coral Springs Talk. Tamarac Talk was created in 2010 to provide News, Views and Entertainment for the residents of Tamarac and to give resident’s a forum. We are not affiliated with the City of Tamarac. That’s why this site can be occasionally opinionated and obviously open.

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  • Traffic cameras are just another form of Policing for Profit as Capitalism distorts our Justice System. These companies are bottom-feeders and take a 40% cut of the tickets while creating MORE dangerous intersections by fixing the lengths of yellow lights to entrap drivers. You can read about how private companies and crooked politicians have turned our Police forces on their ear in every attempt to squeeze money out of the general public at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2012/08/the-privatized-police-state.html

  • NamVet1971

    $99,000 a month or $1,1188.00 annually? Those pesky decimals got away from you!

    • Sorry about that error in that decimal. Thanks for pointing that out.

  • Alvin

    they have to run for re election. what they are doing is a money grab, pure and simple.

    • MG1152

      That sounds good Alvin, but no one will run against them. Will you?

  • An excellent post. You bring up things like the number of red light running deaths statewide or the number of red light running crashes in the city. This is never mentioned in other news stories.

    One other thing- guess where those car crash videos came from? The very devices that are supposed to prevent them. I spent 25 years in law enforcement in Florida, 23 of which were on the FHP. I can tell you the majority of red light runners are inattentive drivers. Then there are impaired (drunk) drivers, or others. No automated for-profit device will prevent an inattentive driver from crashing. If other media had the integrity to investigate this, the public would soon discover the truth as to the ineffectiveness of the devices.

    There are two things I can say about them though:
    Automated for-profit law enforcement is a bad idea, and it is un-American.

  • fair-reporter

    And now, the rest of the story! This proposal is budget neutral to the City of Tamarac. Had you been at the workshop, the rest of you would have heard that. The cost of the deputies will be paid for out of the fines AND, it the revenue does not meet the agreed covered expenses, ATS will not be paid the balance.
    Just an independent view to get some of the whole picture, not a one sided view.

    • Cities feed Fat Cats

      And who is making the money? ATS and the City. The city is just cares about lining the fat cats wallets. Do your homework about ATS. They stand to make millions from this deal. It’s all in the profits. I know, I live in Coral Springs and we have these money makers in our backyards.

    • Mainlands Man

      Is the city going to be pulling more deputies to do this? Are you hiring more people? Why is everything a secret in this city. Why not let the people in on what you are proposing here. I smell a rat and suggest your city commissioners do more homework. http://soundpolitics.com/archives/014843.html

  • Shame On You

    Right on fair – reporter. The worst part of this article is that Sharon was at the workshop and knows fully well that the red light project will not cost the city anything yet she decided to post this “story” anyhow. Shame on you.

    • Mark A

      A tax to the residents of the city. You should be ashamed! Did you know that these companies alter the yellow light to make more profits? Go to any city in Broward County or the State of Florida. Did you even research this or did you leave this for the red light company to tell you this.

  • MG1152

    I just don’t think this is good for us. I live in Tamarac Lakes and this is the first I’ve heard of this. Has anyone ever discussed this with us? I just think this is all about the money and like the article said, I’d like to see some figures first.

  • SusanY

    This is very troubling free or not. It just seems to be about keeping secrets around here. I mean 20 lights is a lot.

  • SusanY

    If there truly is a safety problem at our intersections, a camera will only CASH IN on it, it will not FIX it. Broward traffic engineers should do a comprehensive study on how to make the intersection safer, and the city should implement the suggestion. I doubt they would answer increased enforcement to be the solution.

  • Don’t be dellusional the “cost neutral” is nothing more than a way to do per ticket fees. Read more about it here: http://www.thenewspaper.com/news/36/3623.asp
    Quote: Under severe budgetary pressures, local jurisdictions often sign contracts with vendors that were presented with a slick marketing campaign. Such deals often contain extremely unfavorable terms. The public is hurt by per-ticket payment systems — often disguised with “cost neutral” contract language — that ensure that the system is designed to maximize revenue, not safety. Such provisions provide a monetary incentive to increase the number of tickets issued. That leads to other provisions prohibiting cities from lengthening yellow light duration to improve safety and requiring right on red ticketing and ticket approval quotas.
    http://www.banthecams.org

  • Martin

    Sharon, I too am concerned about the logic of putting them and the justification that it will reduce accidents. With that, because it sounds like they need to make some revenue, they may not want to put any of the 20 on Commercial because ATS won’t make any money according to this debacle in Naples: http://www.naplesnews.com/news/2012/feb/23/collier-not-paying-red-light-camera-vendor-to/

  • Luke Carlos

    I wrote to my district rep and this was his reply…

    … there is no need to be concerned.The City has done
    extensive study on this issue. The City Commission has discussed the
    issue at length. The City Attorney has reviewed all legal issues and
    this has been discussed
    by City Staff as well as the City Commission. Here are the facts:

    1. The Red Light program is designed to be fiscally neutral to the City and could be cash flow positive.

    2. The Red Light Cameras are consistent with our strategic goal of increasing public safety by utilizing technology.

    3. Enforcing public safety is the Commission’s mandate and for the
    public good. Even if one accident or traffic death is avoided the
    program is a success.

    I hope this addresses your concerns. My best regards, Tamarac City Commissioner…”

    It did address a couple of concerns however I was left with two concerns that I expressed in my original email but are not mentioned here…

    When were citizens given a chance to discuss and advise?
    What is the division of the money in specifics?
    When you say “increasing our use of technology for safety… what our projected increase in safety? …. using what metric?

  • Craig

    And we wonder why the country is going broke. What a waste. As my mother used to say, “Money does not grow on tress.” As far as the update goes, you don’t get anything for free. There is a cost hidden in there somewhere. We just don’t have an honest representative, with the guts, to tell us the WHOLE truth. How long would this company be in business if it could not even cover its costs?

  • ValerieW1975

    Aft first I didn’t agree with this article at all. I thought these cameras would be great for us and help our community with accidents. I did a little homework before I opened my trap and read about them and am VERY concerned. I see so many people unjustifiably getting tickets and no proof that this will help us except try to make some money back. Please read this one about them I wish more information went out to the poeple to decide and let them know. It feels like a slap in my face and I’m not convinced this is FREE to us! There is some hidden cost and we cannot afford that here!!!! http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-07-06/drivers-stopping-means-miami-red-light-cameras-fail-to-yield-promised-cash.html

  • Let’s look at the money in another south Florida city:
    In Hallandale Beach, the city’s records, which are available online, showed they paid the automated for-profit vendor $133,421 in 2011. I noted the amounts were irregular, which would not be the case if it were a set contract amount per month. The monthly amounts ranged from a low of $4,762 in March to $29,597 in October.

    According to the city’s monthly report, which is also available online, there were 2,196 “violations” for which presumably a ticket was mailed. Under Florida law, the city receives $75 for each paid violation. If every violation was mailed (note that in Tallahassee, the city auditor found automated for-profit devices had an 80% error rate) and paid, this is a gross revenue of $164,700. The city uses one officer to review automated for-profit tickets. According to their records, the starting salary for a Hallandale Beach officer is $48,658- and the city pays taxes and retirement to the tune of about 30% on top of this, so the annual cost is $63,255 if an entry-level officer is used that has never had a raise. This of course does not count other costs such as overtime for court.

    Here are the best-case numbers:
    Gross revenue: $164,700
    Money paid to vendor: $133,421
    Officer cost: $63,255
    Net revenue: LOSS of $31,976

    The automated for-profit vendor is laughing all the way to the bank- they have made their money.

    Please read my Hallandale Beach analysis here:
    http://bit.ly/PZr38e

    You will also find links to the city payment and ticket reports mentioned as well as crash data, which no city in Florida that uses automated for-profit law enforcement is willing to publish, here: (scroll down for Hallandale Beach):
    http://bit.ly/MyNiVt

    The other thing about that city is they did have a decrease of 4 red light running crashes at one of the two intersections that received a device. The thing is, the other intersection saw the same decrease a few years ago with no device. This illustrates how random these crashes are, and how no automated for-profit device will prevent them.

    Automated for-profit law enforcement is a bad idea, and it is un-American. Support the 2013 Florida Motorist Rights Restoration Act.

  • Vette1365

    Great article, you know I’d be for them if the city would just have given us a say and discussed this further. Maybe a town hall meeting. I want to make sure it won’t cost us anything too.

    Thank you.

  • jcwconsult

    Did anyone challenge ATS on the fact the videos taken by their red light cameras revealed that the cameras did NOT stop those crashes and near misses? Red light cameras are designed to make MONEY, not to stop t-bone crashes because they don’t do that.

    Did anyone ask why the Florida Department of Transportation (FLDOT) changed the rules in July 2011 to allow yellow intervals that are too short for the actual vehicle approach speeds? Could the fact the state rakes off $83 of every $158 ticket without paying any of the camera costs have anything to do with the rules change that makes intersections less safe with too-short yellows? Can you connect the one key DOT? (pun intended)

    Did anyone object to the fact that the payees are FIRST the state, THEN the camera company, and if any crumbs are left over they go to the city LAST?

    It is not unusual that crash, injury and fatality rates were not presented or discussed. They are NOT part of the critical business plans between camera companies and their business-partner cities. The sole purpose of red light camera contracts is to enrich the state, the camera companies, and the business-partner cities (in that order).

    And, if the city cared at all about intersection, they would add one second to the yellow intervals, making them one second longer than the FLDOT rules. This simple no-cost change would almost certainly reduce violations by MORE than the proposed cameras.

    BUT, this approach has one detraction. It is not profitable for the state, the camera company and the city.

    Setting longer yellows has two advantages. First safety would almost certainly be better than using cameras. Second it would not strip the city economy of thousands and eventually millions of dollars that would be of far more benefit to the local economy if spent in city stores, malls, service businesses, entertainment businesses, charities, etc.

    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association, http://www.motorists.org

  • The scam won.

    Commissioners voted to install the predatory red light camera cash registers to scam thousands of dollars that will come mostly from safe drivers in Tamarac tricked into technical foul violations with deliberately bad engineering that can actually raise crash rates.

    As soon as Tamarac voters realize the predatory revenue nature of the program, they are likely to revolt and demand an end to the scam – as voters in many other cities have done. The first move could be to vote out all the supporters of the scam and replace them with officials that are not willing to scam their citizens and visitors.

    It is a sad day when a city decides revenue is more important than improving safety with better traffic safety engineering.

    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association, http://www.motorists.org

    • MG1152

      You have to be kidding. They passed this?

      • Unfortunately for all the Tamarac citizens and visitors, yes they passed it. Revenue won out over safety, fairness, morality, etc. James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

        • SusanY

          Cause running red lights is the biggest problem in Tamarac! Hey Mayor, its safety as in what are you doing about all the burglaries???? Who gives a crap about the lights!

  • Mitch P.

    I can tell you this. I got a red light citation in Margate two weeks ago – $158 around the holiday season. I can tell you this. I’m never running a yellow light again. Looks like the cameras worked.

    Also,the Tamarac cameras may be caching video, which I think they are. So if one of those cameras picks up a license tag during an amber alert or silver alert and citizens are returned home safely, I suppose that is a plus too.

    Funny though, I’m in a small town in Connecticut now and no red light cameras anywhere. Some comfort in that government isn’t watching everything we do.

    It will be interesting to see how many people turn up at city hall to protest this. Day late, though.
    Let’s all agree on something. South Florida is full of bad drivers, unlicensed drivers, drivers who cannot read English – let alone pass a drivers test. Motorists here fail to stop for lights, stop for stop signs, use turn signals, drive the speed limit, pass other cars safely, etc.
    Thing is once food stamp/welfare/disability folk get a red light citation, there goes half their weekly income and now they have a whole new set of problems.

  • I have read that by delaying the amount of time by a few seconds between light changes has a much greater affect on reducing accidents than adding cameras. I was under the impression that cameras just make more people slam on their brakes and cause more accidents.