Jan 022012
 

Owen Courreges

In a few places around the city, some citizen with a flair for the dramatic has pasted up posters featuring black-and-white photographs of traffic cameras emblazoned with the word “OPPRESSION.” Given the news that continues to come out about New Orleans’ “safety camera” program, these posters appear more accurate with each passing day.

The Times-Picayune delivered the latest bombshell just this past week, reporting that most camera revenue from speed cameras has been coming from a small number of locations with unusually low speed limits.

“The intersection of Henry Clay Avenue and Coliseum Street is a prime example of what seems to be a speed trap,” the Times-Picayune editorialized on Saturday. “That intersection has become notorious with motorists, and no wonder since most streets of its size have a 30-mph speed limit, not a 25-mph limit.”

The Times-Picayune observed that another intersection with an abnormally high number of citations is Jackson Avenue at Chestnut Street, which has a 25 mph speed limit even though the speed limit on most large divided streets is 35 mph.

None of this should come as a surprise to anybody who has actually been paying attention to the debate over automated traffic enforcement. There is every indication that the cameras are designed for the sole purpose of generating revenue. Any consideration for safety is a secondary concern.

However, the real reason these cameras can continue to exist is because the city has made the decision to deny any kind of procedural protection to anybody who anybody who challenges a citation. It’s essentially impossible to get your money back, even if the ticket is bogus. For those who are still unclear on how this scheme works, I’ve made the following step-by-step list on how a speed camera ticket is reviewed:

1. The citizen proceeds past a speed camera, which then records an infraction. Later, a police officer reviews the footage taken by the camera and authorizes the ticket.

2. Several days later, perhaps even weeks after the alleged violation, the citizen receives a speed camera ticket in the mail from American Traffic Solutions, the Arizona-based company that administers the camera program. At this point the citizen has probably forgotten what happened that day and may not have any specific recollection of their speed.

3. The ticket provides a link to a website with still photographs and a video of the citizen’s vehicle with the alleged time and speed. It does not, however, include any actual evidence of speed. The ticket also includes a date and time for a hearing to challenge the ticket at the New Orleans Administrative Hearing Center.

4. When the accused citizen shows up to challenge the ticket, they usually have to wait hours for their challenge to be heard. This challenge is heard by a Hearing Officer, essentially a contract attorney paid by the city. The Hearing Officer is both judge and prosecutor, but is legally-required to be impartial and provide a meaningful administrative review.

5. At this point, the citizen may ask the Hearing Officer questions regarding how the speed camera actually recorded his speed (i.e., When was it calibrated? What is it’s margin-of-error?). In my experience, these Hearing Officers do not have any knowledge regarding the operation of the cameras, and will not admit any evidence regarding their operation or accuracy. They defer entirely to American Traffic Solutions.

6. Then comes the final decision from the city. The Hearing Officer will uphold the speed camera ticket sans any evidence in the record and instruct the citizen to take his or her challenge regarding reliability or accuracy to Civil District Court (i.e., “Tell it to the judge”).

7. In order to have the citation reviewed in Civil District Court, the citizen must file a petition for review of the city’s decision within 30 days. This will take some legal expertise to draft, and the filing cost with Civil District Court is twice the face value of the ticket.

8. At this point, the citizen will likely call or write to the City Attorney’s office regarding the case they have filed. The city will then immediately dismiss the ticket to render the lawsuit moot and prevent it from coming before a judge (because the city does not create a sufficient record in the Administrative Hearing Center to sustain the ticket). If the citizen has already paid their fine, they must send a request to American Traffic Solutions to refund the fine.

9. However, the citizen now has paid twice the value of the ticket in court costs to file his or her petition. Costs are generally awarded to the prevailing party in a lawsuit. The city will probably not dispute its liability for costs, but only because as a practical matter it doesn’t have to pay them. With some exceptions, citizens cannot enforce money judgments against municipalities under Louisiana Law.

10. Ultimately, the city will place the citizen on a “list” of people to whom it owes money and pay at its leisure. This could be years. Thus, the citizen has essentially lost twice the value of the ticket and the city never had to produce one iota of evidence that the citizen was actually speeding.

This is the way the process actually works. There is no meaningful review. What the city has concocted is an evil, money-making fraud that systematically robs the people of New Orleans. It should come as no surprise that many of these speed cameras are, in fact, speed traps. After all, the whole system is designed to trap the citizen. For the sake of restoring basic concepts of fairness and due process, this system needs to be eliminated.

Owen Courrèges, a New Orleans attorney and resident of the Garden District, offers his opinions for UptownMessenger.com on Mondays. He has previously written for the Reason Public Policy Foundation.

  • Kareena

    Boy do I agree! Have you noticed how short the yellow lights are at these speed and red light camera traps? Have you ever looked at an app called Trapster? Trapster has a very interesting website all about traffic cams. It’s definitely worth a look and to get the free app on your phone. It tells you where the cams are and also live speed traps. You can report a trap and it has a reliability index.

  • jbo

    So, what happens if you don’t pay it. They tow your car. Is that all? They can have my car if they can find it. It caught on fire the same day. I remember looking at my speedometer, just to make sure I wasn’t speeding. I was going 2 miles over. 2! I learned my lesson. Don’t ever drive on Henry clay. And don’t ever trust your mechanic.

    • Owen Courrèges

      jbo,

      Well, they can boot your car and hire a collection agency (which will hurt your credit). In practice, my understanding is that they usually don’t do anything, but you always run the risk.

      I didn’t realize that they were issuing citations for going less than 5mph over the speed limit. They certainly weren’t doing that when the program started. It was supposed to be at least 5mph over in an active school zone, and 10mph over otherwise.

      • Trydyll

        I received a camera speeding ticket at Canal-Bienville intersection for going 1 (yes, that’s what they told me) mile per hour over the limit. The video showed a truck going exactly the same speed, and the examiner wud not as whether the truck had been ticketed.

        • GD

          I got a speeding ticket for 32 in a 35 (not a typo) at Carrollton and Palmetto. It was a long time ago, but if I recall correctly the camera was configured to show the speed limit as 5 mph. I guess the city was hoping to get some suckers willing to pay it – I never did.

  • whatiheard

    What I heard is that if you pay the ticket, it does not show up on your record and is not reported to your ins. company, but if you contest the ticket, it IS reported to your ins. company, even if you “win”.

    That’s why I just paid mine. I didn’t want my ins. to go up.

    This is such a scam!

    • Owen Courrèges

      whatiheard,

      Don’t worry about that — it doesn’t get reported to your insurance either way. Because it’s a “civil” violation, it doesn’t have any impact except the fine itself.

    • ldm

      I was told that it doesn’t get reported to your insurance company because they have no proof of who was driving your car when the incident occurred.

  • Angie Peckham

    I’ve now had two photo tickets in eighteen months and both times, the tickets were sent exactly a *month* after the alleged infraction, making the time alloted to pay, pretty short. As someone on an extremely tight budget, I feel like the tickets should be sent out in a timely manner.

  • Daniel

    I heard Chief Surpas on WWL claim that if you are already in the intersection while it is yellow, and your rear bumper is still behind the curb across said intersection you will not get hit for a red light ticket. Alas, it just happened to me last week. I saw the camera flash behind me and I was going 30 in a 35. For my rear bumper still in the road when it turned red. Please explain the new technology of vehicle that accelerates at such a hair-blowing velocity that would have a car accelerating from a new green light hit my 30 mph traveling bumper unfortunately still 6 inches over the white line. It’s a huge scam. Not to mention half of the fees generated go to Arizona in the form of pure, green private sector profit.

    Shall I continue about the time on Carrollton and Banks by Jesuit when, at a red light I saw the camera flash 8 times on a collection of still motorists kindly, safely awaiting a green light to come? What were their crimes?

    Not to mention Robert Mendoza had to get fired because of corruption over the cameras. In JP in the heat of corruption they just canceled the program. But not in NOLA. We have a new Mayor who walks with clean boots from all the licking done to them on a daily basis. I love how Mitch just seems to always fail upwards.

  • paul

    I just recently got 3 tickets from Henry Clay intersection one from 5/12/10 26miles/hr, one form 3/27/11 27miles/hr, and one from 4/21/11 26miles/hr. How can you get a ticket from a year and half ago?

    • Owen Courrèges

      paul,

      Really? 26mph? One mile oveR? I seriously doubt these radars can even detect speed that well. I’m going to look into this further. It might be time for a FOIA request.

    • Colleen O’Mara

      Me too i know i was not speeding there i make a point not to. But it’s there scam so how do we win?

  • Amanda

    I just received a Henry Clay ticket, which is funny since I live on Jackson and routinely see the nighttime flashbulbs. The ticket says if I do not pay, it will be referred to a credit agency. However, my car is registered first to my deceased father and then me. Are they going to try and screw up his credit?? HA! Have fun with that. Or I guess they will boot me when they can?

  • Amanda

    And one more question – how would this be subject to a FOIA request? Hasn’t the TP already tried that and been turned down?

    • Owen Courrèges

      Amanda,

      I hadn’t heard that the TP had an FOIA request on the cameras turned down. The information should be accessible that well, especially basic information on how the program works.

  • me

    I’ve gotten and not paid several of these tickets, specifically at Jackson/St Charles and Henry Clay (I thought it was Coliseum). The first one was – I think for $298. I was afraid and paid it. Then there was talk about the cameras being so questionable that I decided to stop paying them. I’ve gotten letters warning that my car will be booted; I think I got one that I would be turned in to a collection agency. I’m taking my chances. I’ll deal with what comes if/when it does.
    Why would a speeding ticket or incomplete stop ticket be so over priced? Only to generate revenue, as someone pointed out above.

    Does anyone have ideas of how we can help the City generate income in less anger-provoking way …… and do away with these hated cameras???????

  • alli

    Meanwhile, the NOPD is completely helpless to stop the speeding (60+ mph) motorcycles that come out like clockwork every Sunday on Orleans Avenue.

    • Blackbird

      They’re all over Tchoupitoulas late at night, too. My friend who lives on the Westbank can hear them, so why can’t the cops hear them?

  • Hunter

    Just want to point out, the flashing light doesn’t necessarily result in a ticket. I used to live off of Banks and I’d get flashed every day making my right turn onto Banks from Carrolton. Was extra careful after I got violated for a rolling stop, got flashed every time but never got another ticket.

    Meanwhile my parents live off Henry Clay. That camera has been the plight of our family

    • Owen Courrèges

      Hunter,

      Just want to point out, the flashing light doesn’t necessarily result in a ticket. I used to live off of Banks and I’d get flashed every day making my right turn onto Banks from Carrolton. Was extra careful after I got violated for a rolling stop, got flashed every time but never got another ticket.

      This actually raises another issue: Why are the cameras continually going off when there is no violation? Shouldn’t they usually only go off when a violation is detected?

      Also, it should be noted that the flash of the cameras are very annoying to those living and working nearby. There have even been a couple of times when they’ve distracted me in traffic, which is a safety issue.

      Meanwhile my parents live off Henry Clay. That camera has been the plight of our family

      I’m glad somebody near Henry Clay agrees that the camera is irritating. I’m just tired of hearing excuses for it. Why didn’t they just put up a stop sign or two? That’s a cheap and easy way to slow down traffic on a main street and allow better accessibility via side streets.

      • gnola4

        For speed I believe the cameras take 2 photographs 1/2 second apart – the ground in the image is mapped in perspective so that distance can be measured from one point to another anywhere on the ground plane within the photo.

        The sensors in the road pick up the possibility (not precise speed but an excess of speed) of an infraction and cause the photos to be taken – then the distance is measured (verified) between the car position in the first photo and the car position in the second which gives the calculation of speed. I don’t know if this process is automated or done by a real person. So not every set of photos results in a violation.

        It happened to my mother who insisted she was not speeding – I took the enlarged photos (which had to be stitched together from screen shots because they don’t let you save them!) went out to the street and measured from rear wheel in the first photo to rear wheel in the second photo – the distance of 22′ 8 3/4″ which is the distance one travels at 31mph in 1/2 a second. She had ample time to pay and did pay the $75 fine and $4 convenience fee for paying online vs mailing a check.

        The road here is not one that would normally get a 30mph limit because less than 1/2 a block away it narrows and there are not 2 clear lanes of traffic with enough room for cars going the opposite direction to pass each other when parked cars are on both sides of the street (such as on Camp St for much of uptown which is also 25)

        In addition Henry Clay used to be a truck route from Magazine to the River and the 25mph limit was likely to keep trucks in check in the residential portion of Henry Clay that is wider and has 2 clear lanes of traffic.

        The cameras give plenty of clues to their existence for anyone who wants to make the effort not to get a camera citation:

        1. Their locations are all readily available on various internet maps to show exactly where they are – take note of them
        2. They all have a rectangular yellow sign and speed limit sign within a hundred feet or so in front of them that says “photo enforced” and easy to see if you are reading the traffic signs as you are supposed to.
        3. They all have double rectangular road sensors embedded in the street which are visible if you are paying attention to the road in front of you (Single rectangular sensors are used at stop lights everywhere – double ones right next to each other are what means a camera is near)

        There are plenty of safety studies on both sides of the camera effectiveness issue – the state of Virginia outlawed red light cameras when studies said that the accident rate was going up at intersections with cameras. I don’t like them – but if it means lower property taxes for those who can remember where the cameras are then great – the speeders can pay for more of the inefficient allocation of resources and waste that goes on in the annual budgets of the City of New Orleans – maybe we could reduce our garbage fees if we had more cameras…

        Also in my driving experience I don’t note any locations in New Orleans where yellow lights have been shortened below 5 seconds – nor any locations where existing speed limits were lowered to facilitate camera installation. In fact speed cameras (as opposed to red light cameras) that I can think of are installed where frequent speed traps by NOPD traffic were set up in the past to control excessive speed in residential neighborhoods or school zones.

  • Dear Mr. Courreges,
    This is a fine analysis of how the scams work to issue camera tickets, and how the scams often work to make challenges so difficult that many people give up and just send in the check.
    Speed cameras will produce significant revenue ONLY when the posted limits are deliberately and maliciously set artificially low, well below the safe and normal traffic flow speeds. Red light cameras will produce significant revenue ONLY when the yellow intervals are deliberately and maliciously set too short for the actual approach speeds of vehicles. Both types of deliberate mis-engineering tend to reduce safety and increase accident rates. But the malicious mis-engineering is VERY profitable for the corrupt governments that engage in these predatory practices.
    Readers can see the science and unbiased research on how to engineer posted speed limits and traffic lights for maximum safety and minimum violations on our website. These safety-optimum practices are NOT used in the New Orleans area, as you know. Citizens should demand that the government reset all the posted speed limits and traffic light timing for maximum safety and take down the predatory ticket cameras. If officials refuse, they should be voted out and replaced with new officials that value and honor safety above predatory ticket revenue.
    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association, http://www.motorists.org, Ann Arbor, MI

  • JAM

    Re the TP’s FOIA request, it was for the list of names of people with unpaid fines, perhaps above a certain threshold, I don’t recall. But the lower and appellate courts turned them down. The TP has applied to the LA Sup Ct for review. I didn’t read those rulings, but perhaps the info discussed here could be divulged, as it doesn’t relate to identities, but rather to the mechanics of the program. I can’t see any protected interest there.
    And re getting booted, I believe the city is focused on the CBD and general downtown areas (patrol cars with license-plate-scanning cameras). But they recently made some noise about expanding the scope, though I bet that’s just puffery, trying to scare people into paying.

  • Upper Hurstville resident

    “There is every indication that the cameras are designed for the sole purpose of generating revenue. Any consideration for safety is a secondary concern.”

    Mr. Courreges,

    Your generalizations are irresponsible and uninformed. Speeding has been a serious problem on the affected stretch of Henry Clay Ave. for many years – long before the advent of traffic cameras. The local neighborhood association lobbied for years to get a traffic camera at that location and its installation has been widely hailed by the area residents.

    Your depiction of the flaws in the system may be accurate and should surely be addressed, but your credibility is severely damaged by dismissing – nay, denying – the very real purpose for the cameras’ existence, in the first place.

    I agree that there may be systemic issues with both the hardware and the administrative process, but in general, I fully support the concept of traffic cameras. It amuses me to no end that some drivers simply refuse to obey traffic laws – and if that puts a few more dollars into the city coffers, then all the better for us law-abiding citizens!

    • Owen Courrèges

      Upper Hurtsville resident:

      Your generalizations are irresponsible and uninformed. Speeding has been a serious problem on the affected stretch of Henry Clay Ave. for many years – long before the advent of traffic cameras.

      True, but setting the speed limit at an unusually low level — 25 mph — is the type of thing that encourages speeding. A wide, divided street with few stops should have a speed limit of 30 or 35 mph, not 25. And those are still residential speeds.

      The local neighborhood association lobbied for years to get a traffic camera at that location and its installation has been widely hailed by the area residents.

      That’s not really accurate, now is it? The neighborhood association lobbied for other traffic calming devices, but were told by the city that a traffic study would be required. Then, low and behold, the city was willing to install a speed camera with no traffic study at all (a fact which, indicentally, proves the point that the Times-Picayune was making). A couple of stop signs or speed humps would have slowed down traffic just as effectively, if not more so, than a speed camera.

      The city did the same thing on Toledano just past South Claiborne. The neighborhood association lobbied for a stop sign, and then the city gave them a speed camera. The city is offering speed cameras as the only option for neighborhood groups who complain about speeding. That’s corrupt, wrong, and feeds into my conclusion about this being primarily about money and not about safety.

      Your depiction of the flaws in the system may be accurate and should surely be addressed, but your credibility is severely damaged by dismissing – nay, denying – the very real purpose for the cameras’ existence, in the first place.

      There’s no “may” about it — my depiction is accurate. I’ve experienced the system multiple times first hand.

      Moreover, I reiterate what I said above — the city rejects other traffic calming devices in favor of speed cameras, thus revealing that they are about money, not safety. If the issue were safety, the city would be considering other measures besides cameras. It is clearly not.

      I agree that there may be systemic issues with both the hardware and the administrative process, but in general, I fully support the concept of traffic cameras.

      The “systemic issues” you describe are features, not bugs. As I noted in my op-ed, the cameras would not be profitable for the city or American Traffic Solutions if not for the systematic denial of due process. And the only reason the cameras exist is because they make money. Hence, the denial of due process is integral to the cameras. Sorry, but you can’t support one without the other.

  • Truth for every word, Owen. This is nothing short of a scam.

    If it were about safety, the city would install speed humps on problem streets. If it were about safety, the administration of the program wouldn’t net so much money for contractors and have no effective means of challenging decisions.

    But I must ask, how do we get this program dismantled?

    • Owen Courrèges

      Cousin Pat,

      But I must ask, how do we get this program dismantled?

      I hold out some hope that the state will pass a law banning them. The city council and Landrieu don’t seem to really care. The only other option would be to mount some kind of refererendum drive — this actually worked in College Station, Texas.

      Legal action could be attempted, but I would be concerned that the courts would view this as a political issue despite the due process violation. Besides, that’s already been tried in other ways without a lasting success.

      What I’m trying to do is point out the flaws in the challenge process to the public and hopefully get this aspect of the debate picked up by the broader media. Even those inclined to support the cameras generally wince when you tell them that you have to pay twice the face value of the ticket to get an effective challenge, and that you can’t make the city pay you that money back even if they admit that they owe it to you.

  • LD

    Is it really so hard to drive the speed limit? I drive down Prytania in front of McGehee at least twice every weekday into and out of work. Never been flashed. Just slow down. Drive 2-3 mph below the speed limit if you’re that concerned. Once out of the range of the camera, speed up to your little baby heart’s content.

    • Owen Courrèges

      LD,

      Is it really so hard to drive the speed limit?

      Well, when signage is bad it can be. Some school zones provide inadequate warning, and departures from normal speed limits (like on Henry Clay and Jackson) tend to trip people up. In any event, the city won’t provide evidence that the cameras actually record speed with any accuracy. Until they do so, I’m free to assume the things could just as easily use a random number generator.

      Once out of the range of the camera, speed up to your little baby heart’s content.

      That’s not all that safe, though. Just get past the weights, and then roar the engine. Another problem with cameras versus cops — cops aren’t fixed to a single location.

    • Darrell

      Is there any good reason why Prytania should have a 30 mph and Jackson below St. Charles should be 25 mph? The traffic camera is the only reason I can think of. Prytania is hazardous to cross, especially when cars are parked right up to the corner.

    • LD

      Owen, I agree that information would be good. I also don’t like the way the programs are handled, with private collection and civil enforcement. But I have no problem seeing all of the signs, and I agree with the departures from normal speed limits for school zones and other areas. Honestly, 25 should be the speed limit on ALL of those essentially residential roadways.

      My comment about speeding up out of range of the cameras was tongue in cheek, since it seems so many people think they should be allowed to drive much faster than the posted speed limits.

      • Owen Courrèges

        LD,

        30 mph is the standard residential speed limit in most areas. In New Orleans, the standard speed limit on divided streets is 35 mph. You may think that the standard should be 25 mph, but it’s not. It’s a departure from the norm, and it turns an automated enforcement scheme into a speed trap.

        • gnola4

          I am sorry – this reply is flat out wrong – see New Orleans municipal code which states 25mph is the default limit.

          Streets with 30 and 35mph limits are either defined by name in the code, or as a boulevard / divided street.

          Interesting fact I discovered but didn’t know – Radar detectors are illegal on Louisiana between Tchoupitoulas and S Claiborne! & Warbler street is defined in the code to have a limit of 20mph.

          Sec. 154-531. – General limit.

          It shall be unlawful for the driver of any vehicle to exceed a speed limit of 25 miles per hour upon the streets of the city, except as provided in this article on through streets or upon boulevards or upon those streets or parts designated in section 154-533.

          (Code 1956, § 38-73(a))
          Sec. 154-532. – Thirty, 35 mph speed zones.

          It shall be unlawful for the driver of any vehicle to exceed a speed limit of 30 miles per hour upon any through street designated in schedule II, section 154-1193, or for the driver of any vehicle to exceed a speed limit of 35 miles per hour upon any boulevard of the city except upon the streets or parts of streets designated in section 154-533.

          Sec. 154-544. – Prohibiting the use of radar detection units on certain city streets.

          (a)
          It shall be unlawful for any person to operate any device or mechanism to detect the emission of radio microwaves which are employed by police to measure the speed of motor vehicles for law enforcement purposes upon Louisiana Avenue between Tchoupitoulas Street and South Claiborne Avenue.
          (b)
          It is unlawful to use such device or mechanism commonly known as “fuzz busters” upon any such motor vehicle on Louisiana Avenue between Tchoupitoulas Street and South Claiborne Avenue.
          (c)
          The provisions of this section shall not apply to any receiver of radio waves utilized for lawful purposes to receive any signal from a frequency lawfully licensed by any state or federal agency.
          (Code 1956, § 38-73.1)
          State law reference— Power of local municipal authorities, R.S. 32:41; powers of local parish authorities, R.S. 32:42.

          • Owen Courreges

            gnola4,

            I disagree. Although the city code starts with 25 mph and branches out from there, the standard is essentially 25 mph for non-divided streets and 35 mph for divided streets, unless otherwise marked. This is what the signage on St. Charles says.

            Hence, the default speed limit for Jackson and Henry Clay is 35 mph under the law, but the city has erected signage limiting it to 25 mph. It’s a departure from the blanket standards of the city code.

          • gnola4

            Henry Clay is NOT a divided street and so 25 applies as the default and signage is not even required though provided.

            Jackson IS a divided street. Your logic of 35 would only therefore apply to Jackson not Henry Clay –

            Jackson is also an old truck route which may be the reason it retains 25 though that is only a guess.

    • juneaux

      The speed limit on Prytania at McGehee is 30mph, not 25mph, when school zone speed limit is not in effect, which is a reasonable speed limit for that street. 25mph speed limit is not a reasonable speed limit for Jackson Ave. And it appears there’s a newer speed trap at Jackson and Annunciation. BEWARE!

  • LDiswrong

    LD, You don’t get it. When I got my ticket I did not thing I was
    speeing. Mine was at Jackson/Henry Clay. The signage in
    that area is very confusing, and you really have to look for
    the sign which tells you a street which would normally be
    35mph, is 25mph. I thought I ***was*** doing the speed limit
    when I got my ticket. I am not a speeder, and I am not
    a lawbreaker. These tickets are hurting people who are good
    drivers, and who make every effort to drive the speed limit.

    My other response was I got one of those lic. plate covers like
    the NOPD officer had on his car. They’re legal. They’ll make
    sure the flash of the camera obscures your plate. Do a search
    for “license plastic cover”. There is also a shiny spray you can
    get. Enough of these ****ing cameras!!!!!

    • Uptown_Hurler

      Buyer beware:
      The covers and sprays are NOT effective!

      The show Mythbusters (episode 73) tested a lot of these products, and they simply failed to obscure the license plate.

      http://mythbustersresults.com/episode73

      I guess anything is better than nothing, but I’d hate to see people waste their hard-earned money on snake oil.

    • LD

      Ignorance is not a defense. The signage is obvious. The camera is obvious. I can’t tell which one you’re talking about, Jackson or Henry Clay. If the latter, THERE IS A CHILDREN’S PSYCHIATRIC HOSPITAL RIGHT THERE. If the former, Trinity/Les Enfants. Sorry if you didn’t know you were speeding. Next time maybe you’ll pay more attention.

  • MH

    Funny, I planned to go tomorrow morning to contest a camera ticket I got, but after reading the article and other comments I probably won’t even waste my time.

    • Owen Courrèges

      MH,

      Unless you’re talking about solid, documentary evidence to prove a mistake was made, there’s really no point in challenging the ticket (and maybe not even then). It’s a “guilty until proven innocent” type of proceeding. They only reverse tickets in pretty extreme cases.

      The attorneys in the Administrative Hearing Center are, in my experience, the dregs of the practice. They treat even fellow attorneys (myself included) with extreme disrespect by misrepresenting the law and ignoring the legal standards underpinning administrative review. They are mercenaries paid by the city to ignore the law and rotely uphold tickets. There has only been one time I felt that a hearing officer was trying to be fair, and even then she felt constrained by the system to uphold the ticket (the city doesn’t give them any discretion). It’s Kafka on steriods in there.

  • free rides

    The ultimate insult concerning the traffic cameras is the City’s low collection rate. According the the Times-Picayune, “Between 35 percent and 40 percent of offenders simply don’t pay their speeding and red-light tickets, according to records and interviews with city officials. The fines and late fees those people owe are roughly equivalent to what the city expects to collect from those who do pay their tickets this year.” http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2011/12/new_orleans_traffic_camera_fin.html.

    So chumps like me decide to pay their ticket because, although annoying and unfair, we feel a duty to pay our debts. Meanwhile, free riders take advantage of the City’s incompetence and simply refuse to pay.

  • JL

    My spouse received one of these citations, and decided to pay it. Unfortunately, when the camera image was received, it wasn’t even his car the camera photographed. Yet another attempt by the city to scam the general public.

  • ALK

    Has anyone actually been booted or towed for not paying a traffic camera ticket? I admit to having a few outstanding tickets and I park on the streets downtown regularly, but nothing has ever happened to my car. I’m wondering if that threat is another part of their scam. I would love to know whether I should even worry about it anymore.

    • Owen Courrèges

      ALK,

      Currently, they claim that they’re only booting vehicles around the CBD and the Quarter. If you’ve been parking downtown and haven’t been booted, it could be that they just haven’t added you to the boot list yet or they just haven’t read your plate.

      • ALK

        My tickets are from July/August 2010 (actually my wife got 2 on Henry Clay on the same day going about 30!) so our car should have been on the “list” a long time ago. Also, I park almost every day on the street in the CDB so I can’t imagine I’ve just been lucky enough to avoid the plate readers. I’ve also received a few parking tickets (which I do pay timely) so they know I’m out there. I really think the threat of towing/booting for traffic camera tickets is a big scam by the City, but I would like to verify that somehow.

  • Rachel

    I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one offended by this whole process. I got one on Henry Clay. The photo clearly showed my car, but I personally felt far less comfortable with a months-later statement from a CAMERA that I was speeding than I would have with an in-the-moment statement from an officer. Too, the notice was sent 2 months later – and due in less than 30 days. When I neglected to pay it during that window it doubled. The whole thing was beyond annoying, and there was no point in trying to contest it. I paid it, as the notices were getting increasingly scary and I feared being booted.

  • greg sonnier

    Thanks for saving me several hours of contesting a speeding trap ticket. It is just not worth it.
    I will never forget contesting a city of NO parking violation in front of the blind judge. He let me go and told me that he never wanted to see me in his hearing room again.
    In another related issue, Will we ever know how N.O. property assessments are calculated?

  • Joseph B. Stahl

    “At this point the citizen has probably forgotten what happened that day and may not have any specific recollection of their speed.” — Owen Correges, Attorney at Law

    The Goofy Generation can now graduate from law school yet still have no clue as to how to write an English sentence. The type of embarrassment quoted above is repeated throughout Courtreges’ exercise in outrage (which outrage is certainly justified). Perhaps if Courreges were literate the City might be intimidated into respecting his views, taking him seriously and mending its ways. One citizen can not have “their” speed. “At this point the citizen has probably forgotten what happened that day and may not have any specific recollection of one’s speed,” etc. might even get the attention of a corrupt moron like Mitch Landrieu, whose administration (like every past local administration within memory) has to depend on robbing its citizens in order to function. Er, maybe it would get his attention.

    • ALK

      Mr. Stahl, you should be careful when criticizing others considering that you spelled Courreges’ name two different ways in your four sentence post. You also used the plural verb form “were literate” even though Mr. Courreges is just one person. By the way, the use of the word “their” is not necessarily incorrect since Mr. Courreges referred to the generic “citizen”. Although he could have used “his or her” instead, that would have been a little too legalistic in an online blog.

      • J.B. Stahl

        “Were” is the singular subjunctive and was correctly used in place of the indicative “was” for a contrary-to-fact statement. “Their” is always incorrect when used to refer to only one person. “Courtreges” resulted from my accidentally hitting the t key at the same time as the r key next to it, not because I believed the t belonged there. One need not be blameless in order to blame.

  • CRZ

    I’m surprised that no one has gotten a paintball gun loaded with oil based paint balls and hit the camera lenses with a barrage of paint. I’m guessing this would keep the camera out of commission.

    • Lizard

      Chartres St camera has been “taken out” before by the locals but it was unfortunately repaired quite promptly.

  • Owen Courrèges

    Joseph B. Stahl,

    One citizen can not have “their” speed.

    Yes, one citizen can because the singular “they” is well accepted.

    According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, “The use of they, their, them, and themselves as pronouns of indefinite gender and indefinite number is well established in speech and writing, even in literary and formal contexts.”

    http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/they

  • Owen Courrèges

    Joseph B. Stahl,

    One citizen can not have “their” speed.

    Yes, one citizen can because the singular “they” is well accepted.

    According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, “The use of they, their, them, and themselves as pronouns of indefinite gender and indefinite number is well established in speech and writing, even in literary and formal contexts.”

    http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/they

  • surfin’

    The sad part is that they target
    out of towners, which harms
    our city revenue…shooting
    ourselves in the foot…?
    Also, it seems like
    REVERSE DISCRIMINATION…
    ie, targeting whites who …
    in their bigoted thinking…
    would
    have enough money to pay-up
    the ‘gun to head’ fee…
    and VALUE the law and
    credit report
    …a subtle TAKE FROM
    THE RICH (“RICHER”)
    TO PROVIDE FOR THE
    POOR/POORER.
    …perhaps that is the
    legal tact…remember when
    all white attorneys were fired by
    Eddie Jordon ? He lost the case, by the way.

  • sickofit5

    Just got my notice that I was doing 35mph in a 25mph speed zone on Jackson and Chestnut. Capping off another return visit to my hometown of 35 years ago. What a joke. Houstonians put traffic cameras on the ballot last election and blew them and ATS out of town. New orleans has changed quite a bit since I was in HS. Every time I return I find another reason not to return to the city. This is another.