Sunday, August 14, 2005


This week Mayor Martin Chavez announced that video cameras would be installed in some school zones in Albuquerque, to catch speeders. The program will be operated like the red light cameras which are now being used at some controlled intersections. This program is commendable, and Mayor Chavez should get full marks.

The ACLU is challenging the ordinance under which the lights are presently operated. The Courts have been by-passed to a great extent, and that is the ACLU complaint. The City is using a nuisance theory, that is, a motor vehicle going above the speed limit in a school zone is a public nuisance and will be abated. The nuisance is abated by a citation to the registered owner of the vehicle (who under the law is presumed to be driving, although the presumption is rebuttable). These are criminal cases in civil garb, is the argument against the program.

The criminal law is preferable, but it appears we have lost confidence in the criminal law process. Takes too long, is too full of technicalities, and the judiciary is broken, say the critics. BIG CITIZEN can take care of that.

Whether the procedure is criminal or civil, the video cameras are very important for the protection of law-abiding residents. We need more, not fewer, cameras on duty. However, Big Citizen should be allowed access to the pictures, and the results of the computer’s determination as to whose motor vehicle is being used to violate the law. Put the pictures on line for us all to see. In the case of a violation, let us all know and see, including the APD officer who is to review the apparent violation reported by the private company doing the filming. This will be a blow at ticket fixing.

Incidently, why have a private company do the filming and notification of apparent violations? Whether it is paid by the violation, or the picture, there is no long term need to farm this police work out to a private contractor. We understand the need, just to get started, and to get the concept accepted. Later this all should be done by law enforcement officers.

Another point. The video camera catches all violators. Why impose severe punishment? The idea of a $100 penalty for one mile over the limit is arbitrary and unreasonable. Speeding at 10 mph over the limit should be punished more than speeding at one mph over. Same with the red light runners. The camera should catch them all.

Certainty of apprehension and conviction should result in lowered punishment. That is the most efficient and the fairest in a criminal justice system. For example, consider what the fine should be for speeding from Santa Fe to Albuquerque; then consider what the fine should be if we had a camera and caught 100% of the speeders.

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