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More on the red light camera poll

Last week I wrote about a poll commissioned by a group called the Keep Houston Safe PAC about attitudes towards red light cameras. The result was quite favorable for the cameras, but at the time I didn’t have full information on the poll. I do now, and you can see the polling memo here and the crosstabs plus question wording here. Basically, the demographics of the poll look reasonable to me, and the support for the cameras is across the board. Given how much media attention the anti-camera forces have succeeded in getting, it’s almost stunning how positively the cameras poll. As I said before, no one has run an ad yet in any campaign to disallow them, so there’s still room for opinion to move, but given the high level of awareness and the sizable number of people who said they strongly support the cameras, I’d say Team Kubosh has an uphill task before it.

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24 Comments

  1. Martin says:

    Personally, I would like to see speed cameras as well. So many people here drive like maniacs (especially on the highways) and there are so many traffic deaths, it is about time something was done about it. It’s sad that it takes a “big brother” camera to get people to act responsibly, slow down and follow the law but that’s the way it is…

  2. Joe White says:

    Trying to understand here, so bear with me. i’ve never heard them referred to as “intersection safety cameras” before. Does “[READ HALF OF RESPONDENTS EACH DESCRIPTION OF CAMERAS]” mean that half the folks were asked the question using “intersection safety cameras”, and half were asked using “red light cameras”? If so, how do the responses break down for each wording? Seems like it would make a difference, if folks had heard the unfamiliar phrase and thought that it was some new implementation.

    Still do’t know why they just don’t lengthen the yellow light time, since that is a cheap, effective way of improving safety at intersections, according to this 2004 TxDOT study.

  3. Joe White says:

    oops, make that Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M, not TxDOT.

  4. Jim B says:

    Voters in College Station, which just chose to ban red light cameras on November 3rd, 2009, were subject to the same pro-camera political push. According to Eric Spring:

    http://defeatredlightcameras.com/2009/10/29/ats-bankrolls-sham-pro-red-light-camera-political-action-committee/

    “As a result ATS is bankrolling the only group in College Station, TX that supports red light cameras. The “Keep College Station Safe Political Action Committee” (PAC) was recently formed “to give a voice to local residents who support the significant safety benefits of the city’s red light camera program.”

    Financial disclosure reports show that no College Station resident has actually supported the effort. The PAC reported collecting $19,000 in political donations, of which $10,000 was provided by ATS. Another $6,500 was provided as an in-kind donation from Questmark Information Management Inc, a company that holds a contract for printing toll road statements and tickets for Harris County. ATS happens to run the cameras that generate the citations for Harris County toll roads. The only other contribution listed was a $2500 contribution from a Houston firm, REM Services, Inc.”

    We’ll soon discover who’s bankrolling the “Keep Houston Safe” effort. Thanks to Kuff we know that the recent poll appears to be a PUSH poll. i.e. “Intersection safety” cameras, and the claim that accidents have dropped 11%.

    If College Station is any indicator, if it appears on the ballot, Houstonians will likely vote to ban them here as well.

  5. Does “[READ HALF OF RESPONDENTS EACH DESCRIPTION OF CAMERAS]” mean that half the folks were asked the question using “intersection safety cameras”, and half were asked using “red light cameras”?

    Yes, I believe that is correct. I don’t know if there was any difference in the responses based on the question wording – what you see is what I’ve got. I’ll ask and post a followup comment when I get an answer.

  6. br allen says:

    So, a PAC that already has lots of misleading information on their website, that has an agenda to keep cameras no matter what and is paid for by the camera companies bought a poll of 500 people that shows sweeping support for the cameras. Seems to me the small sample size, and motives of the group paying for the poll are questionable at best. I wonder how many times they had to sample 500 people to get those results? As someone else said before, the same camera company front group said that 70% of college station supported the cameras, but they were still voted out, doesn’t add up.

  7. Br Allen, do you have an actual critique to make, or are you just going to attack straw men? The sample size is perfectly normal for a public opinion poll – go Google “margin of error” – and your allegation that they kept polling till they got the result they wanted is just silly. You don’t like them, that’s fine. Vote for the Kubosh referendum if you’re registered in the city of Houston. But don’t be obnoxious.

  8. Joe, I inquired with the Keep Houston Safe folks regarding your questions. These are the answers I got:

    1. Yes, on the recommendation of the survey firm we did split the sample to see how people respond to the different ways of referring to the cameras. I can tell you 64 percent support “red light cameras” and 66 percent support “intersection safety cameras”, so no real difference.

    2. There is a state standard for how long the yellow light cycle must be given the speed limit and road conditions. But recently HPD, without being prompted and on its own dime, went out and tested all 70 “approaches” at the monitored intersections — and found only two out of 70 lights where the yellow light cycle was shorter than the state standard. They fixed that immediately. They found 38 lights that were longer than the state standard, giving the driver the benefit. Still, look at the video at http://www.keephoustonsafe.com in the “Media” section, and tell me if you think lengthening the yellow light cycle will keep some of those reckless idiots from barreling through an intersection.

    Hope that answers your questions.

  9. Jim Ash says:

    You should look to the past to predict the future. Keep College Station Safe was the first organization to use the bogus polls to predict broad support for the cameras in as they were moving towards a vote in Nov. of 2009. Keep Houston Safe is using the same play book in Houston. The red light camera interest spend more than $100,000 and still lost at the only polls that matter. If the support is so strong why are the cameras now down in College Station.

    The citizens of College Station now have the right to a jury trial, and appeal when they are given a citation for running a red light, that is not true in all cases in Houston. Let’s work for freedom.

  10. Jim McGrath says:

    Anyone who tells you that you are being deprived of your due process rights as it relates to the red light camera program here in Houston is misleading you at best. Here in Houston, if you get a red light ticket and want to appeal, your first step would be meeting with a hearing officer at HPD where you and your accuser can review the evidence — including all available video and photographic evidence. If the hearing officer rules against you, you may then appeal that verdict in municipal court. If they rule against you as well, you may then appeal to the county court — and up the chain if you so desire.

    It is vitally important that this debate on red light cameras involve facts. This notion that we are being deprived of our freedom, or that the Constitution is somehow being tread underfoot, is one of the more insidious ways that opponents of cameras want to distract you from the truth that cameras work. They reduced the number of red light runners by 30 percent last year, preventing more injuries and probably even saving lives. They free up our police to fight other kinds of crime.

    And speaking of the police, Keep Houston Safe has a big endorsement to announce next week — you heard it here first!!

  11. Jim McGrath says:

    MORE FACTS ON RED LIGHT CAMERAS (from a recent email exchange):

    Q. How can we let the City cite the OWNER of the vehicle and not the driver?  The camera company does not have to prove who was driving! Please explain to me how you can defend that. You can’t. That is why the 6th amendment is being trampled. There is NO defense for the owner of the vehicle.

    A. This understandable position ignores a well-established precedent called “vicarious liability” by which you can, in fact, be held responsible for the negligence of another in certain circumstances.

    For instance, a parent sometimes can be vicariously liable for the harmful acts of their child. An employer sometimes can be vicariously liable for the acts of a worker. Some companies even forbid their employees to try and stop a crime in progress. Why? Because they might hurt themselves, or others, and the company could be held liable as a result. Two Valero workers recently were fired for exactly this reason — they stopped a crime and nobody got hurt, but they got fired.

    We have laws that can force the forfeiture of any car used in committing a crime, even though the owner may have had nothing to do with the offense. Such a system has been upheld repeatedly by courts across the nation, because it increases owners’ vigilance.

    Similar ordinances hold that a landlord can evict a tenant from a rental property because of a guest’s misbehavior.

    We use this same well-grounded, well-established legal precedent to enforce toll violations and parking tickets in Harris County today.

    Why are red light cameras any different? (They’re not.)

    The good news is: cameras are already changing motorist behavior around the 50 or so monitored intersections we have right now and making Houston safer. We need more of them, not less.

  12. br allen says:

    Jim Mcgrath, the spokesperson for “keep houston safe” How much are the camera companies paying you to be their spokesperson? If you really want facts to get out there why not disclose that you are a paid representative of the red light camera interests that stand to loose millions in revenue if the cameras get voted out? Why don’t you talk about how everytime the people get to vote on the cameras they get voted out by as much as 86%? But we are supposed to believe they are popular? IF there are no constitutional issues why have 15 states banned photenforcement citing several constitutional concerns? If the cameras are really so popular why do the camera comanies want to stop it from going to a vote? Why don’t you just let it happen? Why do they have to put up front groups like your PAC and act like concerned citizens when you are really paid figureheads? Why does your site put out half truths and don’t even mention the numerous problems with the red light cameras? Case in point you recently quoted a 5 year old study from the FHA that claimed a 25% reduction in tbone accidents, why not tell the rest of what the study said?

    What is clear in the study, when it is taken overall, is that red light cameras led to no real change in the number of accidents (4,059 with versus 4,063 without). But they did reduce the number of people hurt in those accidents, by just less than 5 percent (459 versus 482).

    The FHA concluded that cameras provide, at best, a “modest aggregate crash-cost benefit.”

    Accidents have gone up at many locations including Houston, Corpus, Lubbock, and Baytown. Here are other studies from universities.

    •A 2008 University of South Florida report found:
    “Comprehensive studies conclude cameras actually increase crashes and injuries, providing a safety argument not to install them…. public policy should avoid conflicts of interest that enhance revenues for government and private interests at the risk of public safety.”
    •A 2007 Virginia Department of Transportation study found:
    “The cameras were associated with an increase in total crashes…
    •A 2006 Winnipeg, Canada city audit found:
    “The graph shows an increase of 58% in the number of traffic collisions from 2003 to 2004.
    •A 2005 Virginia DOT study found:
    “The cameras are correlated with an increase in total crashes of 8% to 17%.”
    •In 2005, The Washington Post found:
    “The analysis shows that the number of crashes at locations with cameras more than doubled, from 365 collisions in 1998 to 755 last year. Injury and fatal crashes climbed 81 percent, from 144 such wrecks to 262. Broadside crashes, also known as right-angle or T-bone collisions, rose 30 percent, from 81 to 106 during that time frame.”
    •A 2004 North Carolina A&T University study found:
    “Our findings are more pessimistic, finding no change in angle accidents and large increases in rear-end crashes and many other types of crashes relative to other intersections.”

  13. br allen says:

    Why is it that “keep houston safe” appeared right about the same time as the announcement that there were citizens gathering signatures for a petition to ban the cameras? Why do they claim to be “safety advocates” but their real mission is to stop us from having a vote on the issue or to sway public opinion for the cameras? Why is one of the highest priced PR firms handling the reins of this group? Mr Mcgrath’s PR firm says on his website that one of their services is;

    “Issue Advocacy
    Think of Begala-McGrath as your lawyers in the court of public opinion. If you need to fight or promote a ballot initiative, take on elected officials or public boards, or simply raise awareness, we know how to conceive and implement winning public issue campaigns that get results”

    They are paid to fight ballot initiatives! So mr Mcgrath, please be honest, tell people you are paid to have your opinions by the out of state for profit camera companies and as such anything you say is going to be suspect at best.

    The same lawyer, Andy Taylor, that works for the camera company that fought the ballot initiative in college station set up “keep houston safe PAC” to do the same thing in Houston. They don’t even try to hide it anymore. They even use similar wesbite addresses, it was “keepcollegestationsafe.com” and they just substituted “Houston” for “college station”. Who is one of the supporters listed on keephoustonsafe.com? The Partnership for advancing road safety. And who is that? On their website it says;

    “Founding PARS members are American Traffic Solutions (ATS), headquartered in Scottsdale, Arizona; LaserCraft, headquartered in Norcross, Georgia; Redflex Traffic Systems, headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona; and Traffipax, headquartered in Columbia, Maryland. These companies account for more than 90 percent of the 5,000 intersection and road safety cameras installed in the United States. ”

    That’s right it is an advocacy group designed to promote cameras SET UP BY THE COMPANIES THAT SELL AND INSTALL THEM! It’s all a sham. There is room for a reasonable debate but people need to know that when keephoustonsafe PAC or mr Mcgrath or others speak that they are being paid to tell you what they are saying by a camera company that has millions invested in keeping these cameras. How fair and impartial will they be?

  14. Jim McGrath says:

    Woman killed when SUV runs red light
    By B.J. Pollock
    Published Apr 19, 2010
    UltimateFortBend.com

    A Richmond woman was killed Saturday morning when another driver ran a red light and smashed into her car at U.S. 90A and Texas 99 near Sugar Land.

    Deborah Dean Gonzales, 59, was taken by Life Flight helicopter to Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston, where she was pronounced dead at 8:43 a.m., according to a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Public Safety.

    Gonzales was wearing her seat belt at the time of the crash, which happened at 7:40 a.m.

    The TxDOT spokeswoman said the driver of a 2005 Toyota SUV disregarded a red light and struck the center of the driver’s side of the 2006 Hyundai sedan driven by Gonzales.

    The impact pushed Gonzales’ car into a 1999 Infinity sedan driven by Vanessa Anna Rivera of Richmond, striking the left front quarter-panel.

    The DPS spokeswoman said it was dry and partly cloudy at the time of the accident, and the speed limit in that area is 55 miles per hour.

  15. Jim McGrath says:

    Just saw BR Allen’s posting, and happy to respond. As everyone in the Houston media knows, I do communications for a living so your information hardly constitutes a revelation. Notice I came in using my real name — I am not trying to hide anything.

    Your data is interesting, BR, but to be honest I don’t care what happened in Winnipeg, or South Florida, or Timbuktu for that matter. First of all, I don’t have the time to scrutinize the quality of that data. Second, what matters most to me and most Houstonians is the impact of the camera program here in Houston.

    The latest data from the Texas Transportation Institute and Rice University — which measures eight months before and then after the camera installation at each monitored intersection — shows that the camera program has reduced collisions in Houston at those monitored intersections by 11 percent overall.

    It has also reduced the deadliest side-impact or “t-bone” collisions by 16 percent.

    Note that those figures belong to the professional researchers at TTI and Rice.

    But to me, the most encouraging stat I have seen comes from the Houston Police Department, which reports that citations fell by 33 percent from Aug 2009 through Dec 2009 — from over 27,000 citations a month down to just over 18,000 a month. Some of this could be seasonally driven, if you will pardon the pun, but another plausible explanation is that the camera program is changing motorist behavior. In fact, the HPD folks tell me that inside these numbers they are seeing a drastic reduction in repeat offenders — people who think they can run red lights with impunity.

    We can all argue about data and numbers, but to me this stat — which shows red light runners are on the decline — is the most important. It shows the program is changing driver behavior, which is what this is all about.

    I saw BR’s modest concession that, according to the federal highway experts, the cameras might constitute a “modest aggregate crash-cost benefit” — and then I thought about the story I just posted above about a local woman named Deborah Dean Gonzalez who was killed this weekend by a red light runner. For families like hers, I will bet the notion that we can stop a lot of repeat offenders and others from barreling through intersections — and prevent a lot of injuries and even deaths — is more than a “modest aggregate crash-cost benefit.”

  16. br allen says:

    Thank you for your honesty in not denying that the red light camera companies are paying you for your work.

    The TTI study specifically says you can’t draw any conclusions on their data because it is so limited in scope, that doesn’t appear to stop you from drawing a conclusion. Also if you would have included just one more city in the study, Lubbock where accidents doubled after installation it would have invalidated the results. Which Rice study are you refering to? The real one that showed accidents at camera monitored intersections went up by as much as 900% that the city tried to bury or the reworked study that was re released changing the criteria to give a more favorable result? This is what the chronicle reported;

    “A Houston Police Department official asked the authors of a study of red-light cameras installed in Houston to alter certain aspects of the study in order to affect its outcome, according to documents in an open records lawsuit.

    The controversial city-commissioned study showed traffic accidents doubled at the 50 intersections monitored by 70 cameras in the first year after they were put in.”

    The FHA said “modest agregate crash-cost benefit” not me, so now you are criticizing the same FHA study that you presented before as supporting your position? Shame on you using a family’s tragedy to further your agenda. Is there any indication that a camera would have prevented that death? Most red light violation accidents are caused by intoxication, distraction, (texting while driving) poor signal visibility, unfamiliarity with the area. How are cameras going to improve that? And how is a 25% collection rate on these civil violations with no real teeth going to cause the worst red light offenders to change their habits? Do you really want us to believe that someone that is bad enough to blatantly disregard the law by deliberately running a red light long after it is red is all of the sudden going to become a good citizen and show up to pay a violation where failure to pay will not result in an arrest warrant, points on their license, bad marks on their credit report? they can’t even hold the registration on the vehicle since the city of Houston doesn’t have an agreement to red flag registrations. In fact the DMV told Houston to stop telling people they would red flag their registration because they weren’t going to do it! Decriminalizing red light running doesn’t seem like a deterrant to me. You might think a camera is a substitute for a cop, I don’t. Cameras haven’t taken one single dangerous red light runner off the streets like only a cop can do. Cops can look for arrest warrant, illegal drugs and weapons, expired licenses and insurance etc like a camera can’t. But the camera companies want fewer cops doing things like this not more. Why? every cop they replace with a camera is more money in their pockets. It doesn’t matter to them that in states like Arizona with the largest camera programs they are laying off law enforcement officers, why? Because a camera doesn’t call in sick, doesn’t take vacation, doesn’t get overtime, doesn’t get paid retirement and can write hundreds of tickets a day more than a real live cop. I would rather get the worst red light runners off the streets. The camera companies and their paid representatives like Mr McGrath would rather see millions in local dollars sent to out of state or out of the US companies instead of spent here in our economy. In fact, I think Mr McGrath’s fees might be one of the few instances of the money coming back to Houston from the camera company. At least that is one positive thing.

  17. Jim McGrath says:

    I enjoy the give-and-take, BR, but a lot of you anti-camera folks appear to enjoy chasing your tail on this whole data issue. If the more recent TTI data I am citing (which is based on the best available TxDOT information) is inconclusive in your view, how can you argue that the very first, older City report — which is based on spotty and incomplete data — is more reliable? I was debating Paul Kubosh the other day when he cited the same first report. “It’s their (HPD) data,” Paul said. When I cited the more recent and complete TTI report, Mr. Kubosh attacked that data as “self-reported” from HPD. Doesn’t “self-reported” data from also mean “their (HPD) data”?

    The most relevant fact that you apparently cannot refute is the fact that last year camera citations dropped 33 percent among repeat offenders and others at monitored intersections. I would argue it is because the program is working, driver awareness is up, and we are changing motorist behavior. But whatever the reason, doesn’t that drastic drop in citations show you, empirically, that those monitored intersections are safer? And isn’t that the purpose of the entire program?

    As for the “money grab” argument, state law dictates the fines paid by red light runners come back to the community in two forms: (1) funding local trauma care centers like Ben Taub, and (2) HPD traffic safety programs like HPD’s drunk driving and school zone enforcement program. (I am happy to provide you or any of the other esteemed readers of Off the Kuff specific details and amounts if you wish.)

    True, the company that pioneered this safety equipment does make a percentage of each fine, but this is America and most entrepreneurs like to be fairly rewarded for their goods and services. I assume you are pretty fond of your paycheck, but based on the tone of your comments perhaps I should inquire if you work for free.

    The one thing I find amazing about this issue in particular is that people seem to spend a whole lot energy conjuring up the most creative (and blatantly wrong) scenarios for opposing the cameras — it’s a violation of the U.S. Constitution, there’s a conspiracy to shorten the yellow light cycle, the canard that it’s a stealth tax. If you wish to register your protest and deprive the program of funds, he is a very simple idea: the next time you come to a monitored intersection (they’re all clearly marked) and the light turns red, stop.

    Or better yet, vote with your steering wheel and take a different route. It still a free country. No one is forcing you to drive a specific route to work or school.

    Finally, the most disturbing thing about this debate is folks like you who genuinely seem to believe that the men and women of the Houston Police Department — who live and raise families in this community, too — would strongly support a program like this while, in your eyes, endangering their own kids, their own families, their own friends, and all of us they have sworn to protect … all so they can enrich some evil, far-off corporation.

    I mean, I am a small government man, too, and think there are a lot (okay, most) of government agencies and organizations that could do a better job. But those who would suggest our police officers are knowingly, intentionally endangering their fellow Texans are no better than one of those Truthers – sans the plane.

  18. br allen says:

    We already know that they fudged the stats, they were caught doing so in the Rice report. If they would do that in one instance why not another? Cities would do just about anything to protect that revenue stream and there are numerous examples of how cities have played with the numbers to justify their program. I have no problems with a company profiting from their work, but nice try anyway. The problem is when the camera company and cities are rewarded financially for creating a less safe intersection. Numerous cities have been caught with dangerously short yellow lights, and whether intentional or not, they profited from the big increase in violations. Thankfully, in League city the PD saw that the camera company set up cameras at illegally short yellows, fixed the problem and refunded the illegal vioaltions. How many times has this happened?

    When the camera companies get paid a commission on every violation there is an incentive for them to send in more violations. People have gotten violations for vehicles that weren’t even in the state at the time, or disabled, or not even the same vehicle as what the violation says! The camera companies have been caught several times recommending intersections that had engineering problems like short yellow lights and confusing signs and poor stop lines. If they were really concerned with safety they would have recommended they fix the problems instead of putting a band aid on the problem and profiting from it.

    You want a reduction in violations? How about Loma linda california that raised the yellow lights by 1 second and saw a 92% reduction in violations? Once they saw that they discontinued the camera program saying the camera companies mislead them. I don’t really see an objection to the Rice study that showed accidents doubling at the camera monitored intersections so how is a doubling of accidents making anyone safer?

    I have never been fined by a red light camera so, again, nice try. You already touched on the fact that seasonal driving patterns might account for some of the decrease you talked about, but seem to imply that most of the drop in citations issued are due to drivers driving safer around the cameras. When the summer gets here and violations most likely increase will you say that most of the increase is due to the cameras then too? What about avoidance? You mentioned this as well, how much of the reduction is from just shifting the problem to other intersections? Again, I have a hard time believing a $75 fine with no penalty and 25% collection rate is going to make a criminal red light runner all of the sudden become a better driver at intersections not monitored by cameras. The cameras also encourage people to avoid the cameras by cutting through parking lots and shopping centers endangering pedestrians.

    You talk as if law enforcement is uniformly in favor of the cameras, that isn’t the case, there are plenty of active and retired law enforcement, firemen, nurses, doctors and others that oppose the scam that is the camera program.

    What is most disturbing to ME is that the camera keepers like you seem to be saying that if someone opposes the cameras that they want anarchy in the streets and love red light runners, that is absurd, OUR families drive these streets too. That makes for a good PR campaign which you know a lot more about than me, but it is dishonest at best. I hate red light runners, that is why I oppose the decriminalization of running red lights by outsourcing enforcement to a company motivated by profit not safety. That’s another thing that gets me about the camera keepers. They tell us how horrible red light running is and what a problem it is but then tell us in the same breath that it isn’t important enough to have a live cop handle it. Doesn’t make sense.

  19. br allen says:

    Oh yea, just caught that. Now if someone opposes the dangerous red light cameras, sorry, “safety cameras” they are no better than those that say 9-11 was inside job. That’s real classy. I can see why you are paid so well. BTW, you tried to use the tragedy of Ms Gonzales who died in that car wreck for your political purposes. Turns out the guy was drunk! Like most red light violation accidents cameras wouldn’t have done a thing except stand silently by taking pictures.

    “Trooper Chad Olive said intoxication manslaughter charges will be filed against Kevin Ned, 35, of Katy, who he said collided with the car of Deborah Dean Gonzales, 59, of Richmond. She died at Memorial Hermann Hospital-Texas Medical Center as a result of injuries she suffered in the crash at U.S. 90A and Texas 99.”

    So tell me, how would a red light camera have stopped her tragic death from a DRUNK DRIVER? I sure wish there was more patrol officers in the streets to stop this kind of hazardous and deadly driving. I realize you want fewer street patrols in favor of cameras that wouldn’t have done anything except record the wreck as it happened I just don’t agree. Once again, cameras are not a substitute for a cop.

  20. Jim McGrath says:

    I need to start paying attention to my kids and my wife, so let me take a handful of these one-by-one:

    1. “The problem is when the camera company and cities are rewarded financially for creating a less safe intersection.”

    For this statement I refer you to the fact that citations are going down in Houston — down 33 percent last year. Under your theory, an evil city engineer somewhere should already be manipulating yellow light times to jack up revenue. But that’s not happening in Houston.

    2. “Numerous cities have been caught with dangerously short yellow lights, and whether intentional or not, they profited from the big increase in violations.”

    Let me refer you to Charles Kuffner’s April 15 posting above. I don’t care what’s happening in other cities because it’s not happening here.

    3. “I don’t really see an objection to the Rice study that showed accidents doubling at the camera monitored intersections so how is a doubling of accidents making anyone safer?”

    Objection, your honor! I can repeat my updated stats as often as you can your outdated and incomplete numbers: the most up-to-date data from TTI/Rice shows that collisions overall have dropped 11 percent, and the deadliest t-bone collisions have dropped 16 percent. I do find it amusing that you find all data suspect and conspiracy-driven unless it is the numbers you like and support your opinion. Those number, well, they’re just as pure as the driven snow!

    4. “When the summer gets here and violations most likely increase will you say that most of the increase is due to the cameras then too?”

    What I stated is my belief that multiple factors, including seasonal driving spikes, affect the statistics, but the drastic reduction in repeat offenders (which you still have not addressed) strongly suggests to me and others that the program is working — that awareness is up and we are changing motorist behavior.

    5. “You talk as if law enforcement is uniformly in favor of the cameras, that isn’t the case, there are plenty of active and retired law enforcement, firemen, nurses, doctors and others that oppose the scam that is the camera program.”

    It’s a free country and in any large community you will have a diversity of opinions, but Keep Houston Safe is proud just last week to have just earned the endorsement of the 5,000-plus members of the Houston Police Officers Union. Their board wouldn’t have made this decision if they didn’t believe it reflected the views of the vast majority of its members. As our new HPD Chief McClelland said on March 31st when he was named to replace Harold Hurtt, the cameras are a “force multiplier” for the department. You can find his statement on YouTube.

    6. “That’s another thing that gets me about the camera keepers. They tell us how horrible red light running is and what a problem it is but then tell us in the same breath that it isn’t important enough to have a live cop handle it.”

    Your notion that a live cop keep help us reverse this red light running epidemic is admirable but unrealistic. First of all, do we really want more high-speed chases in Houston?

    Second, consider the reality of HPD staffing. As of July 31, 2009, HPD had 5,281 officers with another 225 cadets scheduled to graduate in January of this year. However, HPD also expected 223 officers to retire in the meantime — which means the City has added only two officers in the past year.

    That seems like good news when you consider four years ago, in January of 2006, the city hit a “low” of 4,738 officers. But the optimal goal for HPD is a staffing level of three officers per thousand residents. With 2.2 million residents in the City of Houston, right now HPD should be staffed with 6,720 officers — or 1,439 more officers than we have today.

    And, the City Planning Department expects the city’s population to increase by 10 to 12 percent over the next decade.

    Washington, DC; Chicago; Baltimore; Philadelphia; and New York City have an average of 4.6 officers per thousand residents. For Houston to reach that level, we would need 10,273 officers — or roughly 5,000 more officers than we have today.

    Added to that, as of January 2009, HPD had 1,769 officers — more than 25 percent of the force — with more than 20 years of service who are eligible to retire immediately.

    Again, cameras are a force multiplying program that is helping enforce the law and changing motorist behavior. We really are Keep(ing) Houston Safe, and that’s something every Houstonian should celebrate.

    Have a great night.

  21. br allen says:

    Wow, I must say, you are very good at your craft. I can see why they are paying you so well. First of all, someone who dodges questions and has an entire campaign based on cherry picked data doesn’t have the credibility required to make the kind of accusations about my statements like you have done. I can understand why you don’t want to talk about the largest, most comprehensive studies on RLCs ever done by impartial universities. I get it, you don’t want to talk about those, only what happens here in Houston. Get you arms around what you can control. Completely understandable when you are trying to stop the people from voting on an issue, you try to limit what they can review. It’s not a bad strategy. My view is that you should give the most weight to the studies with the largest amounts of data, not the ones that are limited in scope by their own admission or ones done or paid for by those with vested interests in the results. I don’t buy your argument that even though the city was caught asking for the study to be redone until it got the results they wanted that they can now be trusted in their most recent data. I would suggest that the history of doing this would tend to put a shadow of doubt on any other data they put out. I also don’t buy that we can’t believe the original study but we have to believe the new one because it is the latest and greatest. Which TTI study are you referring to as the latest data? I am only familiar with the one that came out in december 08. The one that used the fudged data from the Rice study and said no one should draw conclusions from the study. If you have another one please post up and I will review it.

    short yellows ARE happening here. Case in point League city and Baytown. Houston also had several intersections with short yellows that have been reported and ignored for over a year. It wasn’t until the issue may turn out to be on the ballot that Houston did anything about them. And we are now supposed to believe it was the diligence of the camera keepers this was done? Why didn’t they do anything about it in the last year? Why did they actually fight doing anything about it before?

    As you suggest there are many contributing factors to a decrease in violations and therefore accidents too. One thing we know for a fact is that over the last 2 years because of the poor economy people are driving less. Less traffic means less violations and accidents. Nationally fatalites are at the lowest point in about 40 years. We also see this decline state wide. Accidents across Texas were down about 10% during the same time period that you are using to claim the cameras caused accidents to go down 11%. I guess the cameras in Houston are also responsible for the national trend and the lower accidents all across Texas too? So when we take the 11% reduction in accidents you talk about and factor out seasonal adjustments and the national and statewide downward trends how much of that reduction is truly due to the cameras? Even you can’t answer that, at least not credibly. And that is the whole point. The fairest evaluation of the camera program is that we just don’t know. After 30 years or so of red light camera data there isn’t definitive proof they do what the camera companies you work for say they do. And when we are talking about a program as controversial, constitutionally questionable, with the tremendous potential for fraud and abuse I would argue that the results need to be conclusive in order to justify it. The burden of proof is on those that want to keep the program not the ones that challenge it. So far you have failed to make your case.

    So you won’t continue to claim I don’t address the data about repeat offenders let’s address it. I haven’t seen the data so post it and I will review it. Unlike you I can fairly evaluate any data I see. The questions I would have about that would be how do we know they are really changing their habits in totality not just at those intersections? It would seem to me that a dangerous red light runner would soon learn where the cameras are and avoid them, but does that mean they are not running red lights where there aren’t cameras? In order for your claims to be true you would have to demonstrate that the cameras don’t just shift the problem to other intersections. The other alarming thing about this would be the fact that if the stats are true that there are thousands and thousands of new red light runners every month, why is that? Why were people that weren’t running red lights before now running them? Or could it be that the camera net is so wide that it is catching people that aren’t dangerous and wouldn’t ever be involved in a red light violation accident that they caused.

    Well at least we can agree on something, that there isn’t uniformity in opinions about the cameras from LEOs and that there needs to be more cops in Houston. I don’t see how substituting cameras for cops will make that better. Especially when we see the trend being more cameras means more cops laid off. I am also amused at your notion that pulling over more red light runners is going to increase car chases. That’s good politics, don’t have cops try to pull over criminals because they might run. Why not argue that for not pulling over speeders and drunk drivers and stolen vehicles? The PD has procedures that dictate when they do and do not pursue drivers that run. Why don’t you trust their procedures and their ability to make that decision even if it does happen? Personally I don’t think there would be a signifigant increase if the cops did decide to pull over red light runners, but you and I just don’t know, only difference is I admit it. I still would rather have a cop on the scene to check for arrest warrants, intoxication, drugs and weapons expired insurance and licenses than a camera that can’t do anything about that. All of those activities actually take the dangerous red light runners off the streets, which the cameras have never done, not once. And with a 25% collection rate and dectiminalizing red light running I doubt they ever will.

    Once again, please explain to me how a red light camera would stop red light violation accidents from people that are texting and driving, driving drunk (like in the fatality you tried to capitalize on) or have unsafe vehicles that shouldn’t be on the road? All of which are the leading causes of red light violation accidents. The answer, of course, is that they can’t.

    I think the people are smarter than you give them credit for. I don’t think you will be able to sway enough people to keep the program no matter how much money you and the camera companies throw at it to try to convince them otherwise. I think they will realize that you are simply a paid mouthpiece for the camera companies trying to protect their revenue stream. I think this effort will fail just like every other time the citizens have been allowed to vote on it. My hope is that when the city stops concentrating on revenue and is forced to put their eye on the ball again they will address the real solutions to recuding violations and accidents. That is something I will celebrate.

    You have a good night too.

  22. Dwight Rogers says:

    Red light cameras are no more than a source of revenue for cities.Why doesnt the City of Houston give the poeple a chance to vote on it?? It is an easy answer they need money and that is what the cameras are all about MONEY. JUST LET THE POEPLE VOTE ON IT.how hard is that. If it wins we live with it.I will not ever support red light cameras and that is my 3 cents. Let Us VOTE on it.

  23. Emil Vrana says:

    I am totally in favor of the red light cameras even if I accidently run one myself. Hope they stay too many red light runners and stop sign runners as it as.

  24. CRAIG says:

    According to the city’s own study done by Rice University, accidents DOUBLED in Houston at intersections with red light cameras (NOT FELL 11%, as the poll indicated).

    The wording of questions like “Intersection safety cameras are a reasonable response to red light runners, whose irresistible actions result in collisions, injuries, property damage, and in some cases even death” is clearly intended to skew the results of the poll.

    The pro-red light camera folks are telling lies and hoping that if they say them enough, it will become the truth.