In keeping with that very modern desire to find complex solutions to problems that don’t exist, New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg expressed his desire on Monday to put cameras on “every corner of the city” to enforce observance of red lights and, eventually perhaps, speed limits. And so, in the same year that the Los Angeles City Council considered the evidence from its trial run and unanimously voted to do away with L.A.’s camera system, explaining bluntly that the “program did not work as anticipated,” Mayor Bloomberg is blithely seeking to expand New York’s camera network.
As the Los Angeles experience demonstrates, Bloomberg is swimming against the tide. There is no electoral mandate for the introduction of so-called “safety” cameras in the United States. In fact, the opposite is the case: Photo enforcement has never survived a public vote in America. This looks unlikely to change any time soon: In response to the panoply of attempts to institute camera regimes in a variety of cities over the last 20 years, 15 states and countless cities have passed measures that expressly prohibit ticketing based on camera evidence. Perhaps most famously, Arizona recently declined to renew its flagship speed-enforcement program after just two years of operation, during which time motorists had revolted against the measure to such an extent that they paid only 30 percent of all tickets issued, and even rendered cameras inoperative with Silly String, Post-It notes, pickaxes, and bullets.
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