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HASSO HERING

A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Queen & Geary: The numbers

Written January 30th, 2018 by Hasso Hering

If you want to waste four minutes of your life, check the video of this intersection, the only one in Albany where cameras watch for drivers running the yellow or red lights. You’ll see no violations during this short span, but during all of last year the cameras sprang to life more than 6,000 times.

This I learned after asking City Hall for data concerning the red-light cameras, which were briefly discussed during a city council work session last week.

What I wanted to know was this: How often did the cameras get activated by someone failing to obey a signal in 2017; how many tickets did this cause the city police to issue; what was the sum of the fines imposed on those tickets; what was the total actually collected, and how much did the city pay Reflex, the Arizona-based company that operates the cameras?

I thought all that information would be readily available in an annual report. But evidently there is no such report. So staffers started sifting through various records to come up with something.

Oregon has a new law on disclosing public records. What used to be a simple thing of reporters asking for information and somebody coughing it up is now formal. I was instructed to file a public records request, which I did last Thursday. On Monday I paid $8.10 as a public records fee and got the response to the first question of my request: The police department reported the cameras were activated 6,044 times.

As for tickets issued, I received a 19-page table listing them all, without a total, all of them for the same violation, “failure to obey a traffic control device.” If I counted them right, there were 1,027 of them during the year.

The table also showed the amount of the fine and costs imposed on each ticket, and the amount actually paid. Most drivers were fined $199 pus $61 in costs or fees, for a total of $260. But many paid a smaller fine. And some paid no fine at all but were assessed costs anyway. The costs, by the way, ranged from a low of $61 to a high of $165, all for the same violation. (For an explanation, see below.)

As for the total amounts of money imposed and collected, that’s still unanswered. I shied away from trying to add two columns of more than 1,000 entries each, and the table I received contained no sums.

The city did come up with tables showing what Albany paid Redflex for each month from January through November last year, the December invoice not yet having been processed. I added them up and came up with $24,650 for the 11 months.

Redflex gets $60 each for the first 50 tickets paid in full, and $50 each for any above that number. The company’s revenue started out slow with several months below $2,000 early in the year. But it finished strong with more than $3,000 in August and October and $3,400 in November.

You’ll notice that only about one in six camera activations actually results in the police deciding there’s a violation worth issuing a ticket for. Could it be those cameras and their sensors are a little too quick?

Municipal Court Judge Robert Scott told the council that 90 percent of the violations caught by the cameras involve making a right turn.┬áSo whatever the total the city takes in from the cameras, almost all of it is paid by people making right turns on yellow or red without coming to a complete stop first. Keep that in mind the next time you’re at Queen and Geary planning to turn right. (hh)

September Ridgeway, the city court supervisor, explained: “The fees and costs vary based on each individual case. If there is a fine imposed, there is a mandatory $45 fee to the state and $16 fee to the county. There is a $50 court cost if they fail to appear or respond to their court date. If they need to set up payment arrangements, there is a $15 installment fee. If they attend traffic school, there is a $75 court cost. If the Judge converts the citation to a court warning, he may impose court costs at his discretion. If they fail to pay and do not respond to the past due notice, there is a $20 fee and their license is suspended. The fees and costs can be a combination of any of these.

Traffic was light on Monday afternoon when this still was shot.

I


Posted in: Uncategorized, Videos

14 responses to “Queen & Geary: The numbers”

  1. Bill Higby says:

    Have a wonderful lunch at the Ramen place, take a table facing Queen and Geary then count the flashes. Most seem to be drivers making right turns but not stopping first. I watched a Pick up and an SUV blow a red light at high speed. Hope they enjoy their tickets.

  2. Dave says:

    Hasso:

    Once again you have provided a valuable service to the residents of Albany by your objective reporting. Given the current D-H’s miserable record of reporting anything controversial in the city, i appreciate someone who has the guts and the willingness to pursue the truth and to stir the pot, so to speak,. Keep it up!

  3. Nancy Hart says:

    I am told that the red light cameras in Arizona were voted out by the Arizona citizens.

  4. Jon says:

    Where did the video go? Big Brother overreach a little?

  5. hj.anony1 says:

    Saved myself 4 minutes since your video is “unavailable”. Wasted 30 seconds “hunting and pecking” my way through this comment though. Sigh.

  6. Paul Dauphin says:

    I like the article.. I’ve been “flashed” several times that I stopped too far into the “right hand turn” .. but did come to a full stop and have never got a ticket..

    Also, the video was pulled or isn’t working ..

    Thought you would like to know…. PD

  7. Terry says:

    Tax Cameras!

  8. Ray Kopczynski says:

    Interesting comments throughout the two postings by Hasso…

    What seems supremely ironic to me is that virtually no one has denied that the folks ticketed are being photographed breaking the law. Those folks are ticked off because they got caught. They do have recourse to try and get their fine reduced. Some do, some don’t…

    I’ll hazard a guess that the folks who have gotten tickets are now considerably more compliant with the rules of the road at that intersection — and that is a very good thing. I would have no problem whatsoever having them located at the intersections that have the highest incidents of accidents.

    Does it generate some revenue for the city? Yes. Is that the sole purpose of them? Of course not.

    • John Walker says:

      We do not want more cameras.

    • Ms J says:

      I don’t think anyone who lives in Albany and drives daily to places in and around the city (like me) is a big fan of installing cameras at every trouble spot. It’s good that there is a recourse for offenders who get ticketed, and hopefully the worst offenders (speeding through the intersection, etc.) get the full fine.

      A rolling stop is, in my mind, not a serious offense deserving of an Allen Funt moment and subsequent fine (who hasn’t ever done this?), unless there is a pedestrian that almost got hit or something similar.

      I wouldn’t want to be on camera for every petty offense I might commit either driving or walking or I might end up with multiple fines for jaywalking, improper lane change, going 30 in a 25 mph zone, etc. Setting up cameras in multiple sites is a bit reactionary and I suspect would be a *vocal* problem with the majority of Albany citizens, including myself.

      Hasso reported numbers that show for every six camera activations, there will be one that always results in a fine and/or cost, with a minimum of $61 paid.

      I try to follow the “Rules of the Road” every time I get behind the wheel, but would not want to drive in Albany if there are an inordinate numbers of cameras tracking me which may result in a $61 or higher fine/cost.

      Would you?

    • Rodger Asai says:

      Those cameras can apparently see a lot more than we thought. The last Customer Management Report I could find online (2014) shows the category description with the highest number of rejects (159 of 627) was: GENDER MISMATCH.

      The question is not whether or not some technical violation occurred, but rather is there something fishy going on with who gets a pass and who doesn’t. See Yick Wo v. Hopkins to understand that capriciousness masquerading as discretion is unconstitutional in these United States.

  9. Rodger Asai says:

    Those are the incremental costs.
    Next time ask for the rest of the costs, like those for the APD software required to interface with REDFLEX, etc. One such vendor is Sungard.
    While you’re at it – ask the Finance Department why the “transparent” expenditures database available online – doesn’t have any Redflex records for 2008 thru 2015.
    And don’t get me started on why the “checkbook” data doesn’t reconcile with the Audited Financials or the so-called Award-winning ( Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting ) which puts Albany in company with cities like, Ferguson, MO & Flint, MI (and about 4000 others that pay for membership in that association.

  10. Rodger Asai says:

    The end note about the fees cites the City Court Supervisor, with the unusual first name.

    It took me a while to place, but three years back, after returning from my unintended education on the New Jim Crowe in Louisiana, I chanced upon a lady with the same unusual first name. She was wearing a shirt in memory of her son, Sean Crozier (a fellow ex-Marine) who had died in Albany while I was in Louisiana – so I was not aware of his death.

    That our paths should have crossed while she was wearing that shirt, was just another of many inexplicable things that have occurred since 2003 when I first started the Remembrance Rug (which is now about 230 feet long). It gave me the information I needed in order to add a symbol on the RRug for him.

    That he died n Albany on my brother’s 60th Birthday (who was born in Albany) – and yes, in the month of September – is just another head-scratching fact.

 

 
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