There is no Santa Claus

I’ve never had a big problem with automated traffic law enforcement as long as it was used only for enforcement of moving violations and not for general surveillance.

Now you can add another objection to my list of objections. From Dallas:

Citywide statistics obtained by NBC affiliate KXAS-TV found that red light cameras do reduce accidents. That is a good thing.

But they do it by reducing red light violations, by as much as 29 percent from month to month at particularly busy Dallas intersections. On the face of it, that, too, is a good thing — but not, necessarily, if you rely on traffic fines to make up a healthy chunk of your budget.

Dallas lawmakers originally estimated gross revenue of $15 million from their 62 cameras this fiscal year, which ends June 30. But City Manager Mary Suhm estimated last week that the city would fall short by more than $4 million.

So Friday, the city turned off about a quarter of the least profitable cameras, saying it couldn’t justify the cost of running them.

Yeah, I’m naive, I take things at face value. I actually believed traffic law enforcement was to reduce personal injury and property damage, not just a source of revenue. I don’t recall ever believing in Santa Claus and having the myth shattered, but this must be what it feels like.

5 thoughts on “There is no Santa Claus

  1. Joe,this is always the case with law enforcement. It’s all about traffic stops and tickets. Money is the only object, they could care less if you wrapped yourself around a tree or went off a cliff. I believe if they could find a way to proffit from your death in a wreck (like fining the suvivors or your other kin) they would do it in a heartbeat. I have always believed that the phrase “to protect and serve” should have been “to harass and intimidate”.

  2. This reminds me of a comment I made regarding the DC gun ban. They ban functional firearms, crime goes sky-high, and the stated reason for continuing the ban is that crime is sky-high.

    Somewhat like the race industry (Jackson, Sharpton, et al) needing the perception of a perpetual racism crisis in order to stay in business, does the LE industry need high crime to justify its existence? This is why they need vice laws, for example, and it is why the majority in the LE industry will never sanction the relaxation of drug laws. Look at all the pink slips that would have to be issued– billions of dollars would be “lost”.

    This is also an example of “zero sum gain” economic reasoning, or what I call “static reasoning” which is always wrong. In this case, estimates of revenue would have been based on a static traffic violation rate. Increased enforcement has apparently lowered traffic violations. Oops, we weren’t counting on that! Darn!

    What will happen to DC’s LE payrolls if legal guns are allowed in homes and crime eventually goes down?

  3. Joe, I am very surprised that you are surprised. The best way to decrease the number of accidents (and folks running red lights) is to increase the length of the yellow light. But, because the purpose of red light cameras is to increase revenue, and because at least some red light camera companies share in the revenue, there have been cases where the yellow is shortened after red light cameras are installed. In some jurisdictions the resulting tickets have been thrown out.

    See, for example, http://www.thenewspaper.com/news/22/2269.asp

  4. Years and years ago (in the early 70s maybe?) there was an article about too-short amber lights in the “Amateur Scientist” column in Scientific American. Yep, they cause wrecks, and run up the number of violations, too. Avalon Estates, GA, used to have variable-duration yellows, for a while, until the State got onto them about it. Their cops are famously bullies in the Atl. area. Dunno if that’s always true, but the one I met was pretty rude.

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