Gotcha!

Corporations and governments can legally ignore photo tickets in the Valley, while the rest of us are expected to pay up -- or else

Washington's report states that rear-end collisions increased on the affected section of freeway during the program, but that the number of crashes overall — and, most important, their severity — appears to have decreased.

Though he concluded that more research must be done, city and state officials seized on the report as evidence that photo enforcement should be expanded, leading to the January 30 vote in Scottsdale to turn Loop 101 cameras back on.

Washington's final report is expected this spring.

Mike Maas
Francesca Cisneros achieved infamy last year after getting 70 photo-enforcement tickets.
Giulio Sciorio
Francesca Cisneros achieved infamy last year after getting 70 photo-enforcement tickets.

Larry Talley, a traffic studies analyst for Mesa, says he saw similar positive trends in crashes when he checked into the effectiveness of red-light cameras, which are more accepted by the public in polls than speed cameras.

But the question of safety is different from that of credibility, which could be taken into account when deciding whether to exploit the weaknesses of photo enforcement.

The fact that red-light cameras may make Mesa roads safer sure didn't stop Councilman Whalen from fighting his ticket.

Besides, less legally painful methods make roads safer, too. Talley says installing left-turn arrows makes major intersections far safer than putting in red-light cameras.

Then there's the profit angle, in which cities are damned if they do and damned if they don't. Scottsdale earned $800,000 from the Loop 101 program, mostly from ticketing people going less than 80 mph. The city expects to earn hundreds of thousands more in the coming months. Speeders weighing their options with a ticket might consider why they'd want to help enrich a wealthy city like Scottsdale. On the other hand, Mesa lost $200,000 on its program in 2005. Could that money have been better spent elsewhere?

Meanwhile, the photo-enforcement companies and the state, which taxes the fines cities make off all traffic tickets, make money even when the cities don't. The 2006 nine-month freeway program alone earned $2.3 million for Arizona in such taxes. The companies' cut of the tickets is a quarter or more of the fine.

Why not adopt the attitude of state police, who see Loop 101 speed cameras as major annoyances?

Before Scottsdale activated its Loop 101 test program, city officials pondered what to do about the violations by law enforcement vehicles that inevitably would be recorded. The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office and Arizona Department of Public Safety didn't want to see the violations, city officials say, so Scottsdale honored that wish.

The deal allowed patrol cars to speed freely when speeding was justified for their work — and also when it was not.

Police vehicles draw only the same toothless violation notices that corporations receive, and could eighty-six them just as easily. But the deal to ignore notices struck at the heart of the system's credibility. While municipal police routinely hold their own officers accountable for photo violations, checking call logs and making them explain their actions, the DPS and the Sheriff's Office seemed to be saying, "Do as I say, not as I do."

Sheriff Joe Arpaio denied he was part of any deal, while the DPS remained mum on the question.

Once Scottsdale began forwarding the violation notices to the DPS, the agency felt compelled to investigate each one to make sure officers had a valid reason for speeding. But it didn't mean they had to like it.

DPS Commander Tom Woodward says patrolmen found the Loop 101 cameras onerous. He said they may have put the public's safety at risk.

"It deterred officers assigned to the East Valley from working that area," Woodward says. "We still responded to calls, but officers were not in that area working traffic proactively as much as they were prior to photo enforcement."

To recap: Corporations don't have to pay. Family trusts don't have to pay. Cities that use photo enforcement ignore photo tickets from other cities. Lawyers and former police officers contest valid tickets just to see if the judge will let them off. State police are willing to put public safety at risk because it's so demoralizing to explain why they were speeding.

But if you, the ordinary schmo, get caught by the cameras, you're supposed to bend over and take it.

To make the system more even-handed, lawmakers could make vehicle owners liable for the tickets rather than drivers, as with parking tickets.

Denver went this route a few years ago, eliminating penalty points and lowering fines to make its program more palatable to the public. The Denver PD's Commander Lamb says lawmakers in his state gutted photo enforcement out of concern for the Big-Brotherly nature of the system. Now, it's an on-your-honor program, he says. If people don't pay their tickets, no one cares.

Arizona lawmakers debated a similar system a few years ago, but insurance companies lobbied against it, saying they needed to know whether their customers were driving poorly and getting tickets.

This "vehicle liability" method has its own drawbacks — a big one is that some people would be punished for violations they didn't commit. But it would be fairer to everyone.

Whether the Arizona Legislature will or even could close all the loopholes remains an open question. But when two Republican lawmakers heard from New Times that responding to notices was voluntary for corporations, they took notice.

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12 comments
dmsbayne
dmsbayne

Hers the deal, It is obvious that These cams are only for lining the pockets of those who are getting kick backs from the money made, ie. Scottesdale $800:000 in one year. If that is the case then fire two copes for every cam since we don't need them and they can eat their doughnuts at home. But most important is that driving should now be a right and to allow the MVD to dictate weather or not I can drive myself or a family member to the emergency room or to work or to get food for the babies is un American. Any one who believes that we shouldn't have the right to drive should get out of the USA. Its Big Brother just wanting to be in our business because its a drug to them. Do you realy think that those pics just go away. Does NSA mean anything. Get 30 or 40 of your friends with masks and coverd lic plates and all of you speed through a cam. Be safe though, and let the light show begin

forester74
forester74

I keep reading that after 120 days it is invalid.  And besides the city of Show Low is most likely not going to be connected with the DMV.  They only know the address associated with your vehicle.  After 4 months you are off the hook.

Seeley3
Seeley3

i need help i am moving to show low az. i was there 5 min. got to camera tickets .sent to me in new jersey. what do i do. i will eventually have to apply for az. licensce in 6 months.

greenspite
greenspite

Does anyone know if Arizona hires out of state process servers to go after arizona photo speeding tickets? I live in Florida, and got the photo ticket in Paradise Valley?

DavidKnows
DavidKnows

I don't understand, the Supreme Court has ruled that corporations have the political rights of people, so why don't they have the same legal consequences? Under the Citizens United decision they should be liable. Thank you, I just earned Arzona $5 million annually.

Jason Trenkler
Jason Trenkler

The whole thing is garbage, thank goodness that DPS is no longer using the photo radar vans.

goldnugg
goldnugg

I KNOW YOU CAN BE LEGALLY SERVED BY MAIL NOW BUT CAN IT BE LEGAL TO A MAIL BOX AT A AUXERLLY POST OFFICE???

beaner
beaner

Fuck the photo radar and west Mcdowell courts and lets not forget Judge Nap....ASSHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOLE

Anonymous
Anonymous

Honestly, I don't think photo enforcement is a violation of an individual's rights. But the fact that you get charged $200+ with no warning notice sent makes it unfair in my opinion. They should send a warning notice for the first offense, and then like a $30 ticket on repeat offenses at the same location. That seems a lot more fair and would deter speeding, especially since a person charged would by then be surely aware of the speed limit.

Judy
Judy

Believe it or not, I was recently ticketed with photo radar on FLW while I was going 45 mph (the speed limit). The ticket I received said I was going 78 mph. I went to court, told the truth and paid $270.00 for my trouble of informing them that the machines are malfunctioning. I wonder, is this happening to anyone else?

Judy

Patti
Patti

I think the photo enforcement is a crock. It allows Scottsdale PD and DPS to be lazy in my opinion.

What type of analysis was done regarding the accidents on this particular stretch? Did the concept of vehicles going TOO slow and merging on the freeway play a role? And what about the concept of vehicles "cutting" over going too slow? All of these and other issues, I've experienced on this stretch of freeway and because of my alertness, was able to avoid the accident while the offending driver gets upset because I've honked my horn.

And what about the flashes? I can tell you, many of times, I've seen the flash, which has distracted my eyes from the road briefly, to make sure it wasn't me. That flash can be blinding at night.

I understand completely the concept of speed limits, however, the ONLY individuals affected by this photo radar are the ones that go more than 10 miles over the speed limit. NOTHING is done regarding those that can't even drive the speed limit or those that can't abide by any of the other road laws.

Am I angry? Yes! And yes, I was "caught" but the thing that gets me is the wording I received when I went to court to explain things. I can assure you, had there been an officer, one of the tickets would not be issued and the fact that the photo radar has a +/- 1 MPH accuracy issue and my "picture" indicated 76 MPH vs the 75 MPH, it seems to me, that +/- 1 MPH should be taken into consideration and when it's as close as mine was, to be quite honest, yes that would should have been dismissed, especially with the time of day, the amount of traffic and so forth.

To allow the corporate world to get off scott free while individuals, such as myself, be held accountable is unfair practice.

Billy
Billy

Yeah, just don't pay it... it goes away.

 
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