It’s happened 7 times in 10 years, with no fix in sight
by Jonathon Ramsey
Speed cameras have dipped below the surface of the news cycle, yet the programs often remain a nuisance. New Orleans resident Donald Schultz provides the latest example of municipal malfeasance: A speed camera has issued at least ten speeding citations since 2011 to the Nissan Frontier that Schultz parks in front of his house. A car doing more than the posted 35-mph limit triggers the camera, located in the median of Canal Boulevard, but the camera reads the stationary Frontier’s license plate instead of the one on the speeding vehicle.
The issue has been a seven-year hassle for Schultz because he has to go to City Hall to get each ticket overturned. He told Fox News, “It got so bad that years ago I even had a [telephone] number of a person [in the traffic violations office] so that if I called them directly I didn’t have to go down there.” The problem ended for a time – in 2016 a contractor repositioned the speed camera away from Schultz’s car. When city workers moved the camera back to its original position at the end of last month, Schultz received two citations in early April, the most recent one due to a speeding New Orleans Police Department vehicle.
The situation bolsters arguments that speed camera traps aren’t about safety, they’re about money. The city told WWL-TV that each citation must be approved by a technician, and then by an NOPD officer, meaning two pairs of eyes repeatedly ignoring the details on the citation. New Orleans officials said they won’t move the camera, but that “the contractor that handles the tickets will have its employees properly trained to manage the data it receives from the camera.” Schultz captured the essence of that municipal brush-off in one sentence: “If it were in front of the mayor’s house he’d take care of it.”
New Orleans is dealing with number of traffic camera issues, including a recent judgment ordering the city to repay $25.6 million to more than 200,000 residents cited by red light cameras. The city’s new mayor first pledged during her campaign to shut the entire program down until officials proved safety was the motivating factor behind the cameras. A day later she partially walked back that pledge. Now in office, she says she’s examining the options, but the traffic cameras bring in roughly $23 million per year and some of that money funds entire departments, so she first needs to figure out how to make up that loss.