Chicago Red-Light Camera Scandals


Written by Hilary Gowins

The controversy surrounding Chicago’s red-light camera program just got even more interesting. A judge revealed he is dismissing tickets by the fistful while former key players in the program have been indicted on federal bribery charges.

Less than two weeks after Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that the city will be reviewing more than 16,000 red-light camera tickets, a Chicago judge revealed that he has recently been dismissing as many as 70 percent of contested tickets.

During an Aug. 11 hearing, administrative judge Robert A. Sussman made the announcement that he’s been overturning a vast majority of red-light camera tickets brought before him, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Sussman’s main contention is that many red-light camera tickets are issued after a yellow light that lasts less than three seconds, which Fox 32 Chicago reports is the legally required minimum.

“I’ve been calling up a lot of tickets where the amber times are 2.9 (seconds),” Sussman told the Tribune on Tuesday. “That’s what I said on the record and I stand by that.”

Sussman’s bold stance against the city’s expansive red-light camera program – which is the largest in the country – sheds more light on just how broken the program is.

And while it’s welcome news for those whose tickets were overturned, they likely had already paid their fines months ago and may have had to miss work to contest the violation.

But that’s not all – on Aug. 13, the red-light camera program’s former leader and the ex-CEO of Redflex Traffic Systems (the city’s former vendor) were indicted on conspiracy charges related to a $2 million federal bribery investigation.

According to the Tribune:

“Prosecutors accused the former CEO, Karen Finley, of agreeing to enrich former city manager John Bills in exchange for his help securing the Chicago contract and growing it into the largest red light camera program in the nation. Bills was charged with bribery in a May criminal complaint.”

Federal prosecutors issued a press release announcing that the investigation is ongoing. Redflex is also involved in litigation in Louisiana related to a red-light camera program that ended in 2010 in Jefferson Parish.

Evidence is mounting that Chicago’s red-light camera program is less about increasing public safety and more about gaining revenue. Though Chicago’s red-light cameras have been in place for years, no comprehensive performance research exists.

Despite the lack of evidence as to the cameras’ necessity and effectiveness, Chicago  has the largest red-light camera program in the U.S., and charges a cool $100 every time a driver is cited. Red-light camera tickets have raised nearly $500 million for the city in fines, according to the Tribune.

This article was originally posted at the website.