Scot X. Esdaile, president of the Connecticut NAACP is turning up the heat on state legislators as they weigh approval of red light cameras they claim will enhance transportation safety and generate revenues for municipalities. Statement from Esdaile:
Legislation has been introduced again this year to permit red light cameras in Connecticut cities, and the NAACP of Connecticut is prepared again to oppose it.
Two bills would permit red light cameras in municipalities with populations of 48,000 or more and another would set the limit at 30,000. In any case, these bills would impose automated ticketing unequally on the people living in urban areas. As we noted last year, that means disproportionately targeting minorities and the poor for a form of extra traffic enforcement that is inherently unfair, a type of geographical racial profiling.
Typically, 90 percent of red light camera tickets are issued for right-on-red violations, often involving harmless, technical infractions such as the failure to come to a 100 percent stop before turning. The ticket is issued automatically to the owner of the car, regardless of who was driving. Weeks or months may pass between the alleged offense and the mailing of the ticket, so that the driver is unlikely to recall the circumstances in order to mount an effective defense. And, of course, the car’s owner may be out of luck if contesting the ticket means losing a day’s pay, or even a job, to attend a hearing.
Not only does this kind of ticketing amount to a regressive tax on the poor, it enriches the private companies that run the cameras and pocket half of the proceeds or more. Their claims that the cameras improve safety are tainted by the profit incentive and refuted by independent studies that find otherwise.
Across the nation, concerns about the unfair treatment of minority drivers have helped spur opposition to red light cameras. In 2011, voters in minority neighborhoods of Houston provided the strongest support for a successful ballot initiative to remove red light cameras in that city. In 2008, the NAACP of Cincinnati forced a referendum that banned red light cameras. And the burden of red light cameras on minority drivers in Miami has spurred a statewide movement to repeal enabling legislation in Florida.
The NAACP remains convinced that red light cameras are unjust, unnecessary and wrong for Connecticut.