Last Modified: Monday, June 04, 2012 5:34 PM
The number of traffic tickets issued in New Orleans is down, but so is the money generated by them for city government.
City officials are attributing that drop in tickets to traffic cameras. But the down-side is that there is a significant loss of money for a budget that has little room for error.
Between March and April of 2011 the cameras caught 49,134 drivers speeding but in the same time this year that number plummeted to 33,113.
“The program is working. Drivers are paying closer attention. They’re slowing down. They’re changing their driving habits,” said Mark Jernigan, director of the city’s Public Works Department.
But is is also proving to be an unreliable source of revenue for city government. Camera tickets brought in $700,000 less revenue than in the same period in 2011.
Mayor Moon Landrieu has had to reduce his budget forecast for the amount of revenue in the city budget, from camera tickets, by $2.5 million from $19 million to $16.5 million.
The city has dropped its speed limit threshold for a ticket by four miles per hour, except during school hours, which means a driver has to be going at least 10 miles per hour over the speed limit to trigger the camera. The threshold for receiving a ticket during school hours in a school zone remains at 26 miles per hour.
The new rules started in March, and the city also activated 11 new camera locations around New Orleans.
There is a larger philosophical discussion that isn’t being considered. With camera technology becoming ever more intrusive, just how much power do people want to give government to monitor their private lives? Are there any limits?
Public safety and crime detection have gained general acceptance by the public as reasons for using cameras to issue tickets and arrest criminals.
More consideration should be given to what just are the limits and safeguards for civil liberties when it comes to government monitoring your personal, private activities.
The New Orleans experience should also show government officials not to expect reliable revenue from traffic cameras.
This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Ken Stickney, Jim Beam, Dennis Spears, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.