Friday, December 24, 2004

Houston police union splits rank on red light cameras

Lining up behind Mayor Bill White, the Houston Police Officers Union now backs the idea of red light cameras, wrote their president Hans Marticiuc in a Houston Chronicle op ed leading up to this week's city council vote.

Harris County state representative Gary Elkins filed HB 259 on Tuesday to disallow using the cameras for traffic enforcement. (Posting about 14 hours after Grits reported it yesterday, the Houston Chronicle covered the bill here and in this morning's paper.)

The union's stance represents a slight shift in the political terrain from the last time this battle was fought at the Texas Legislature. In 2003, the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas (the state's largest association of police unions) opposed the idea, as expressed in H.B. 901, preferring that municipalities simply employ more (presumably dues-paying) officers to enforce traffic laws. Marticuc, though, cites a Houston officer shortage and argues that cameras would free up Houston police to enforce other laws.

Plus, a little butt kissing for the boss never hurts. After all, Marticiuc knows the city can't realistically afford to hire that many more officers, anyway, and if Mayor White were to win a second term, he'd still be around to negotiate the union's next meet and confer contract in 2009.

That said, the Houston Mayor already sounds a little whiny delivering that message. He told the Chronicle,
"If the people in Austin don't want us to use technology, then we'd be happy if the state gave us more money to hire more officers." Hmmmm. The "give us money" plea reveals White's real motive for the red light cameras -- he thinks they'll be a cash cow for the city, and he might be right. That's not a reason for the Legislature to do it, though. It's White's job to hire enough cops to enforce the laws.

At the hearings on this bill last year, testimony was given by experts that the best way to reduce red light collisions -- short of introducing traffic circles to high-accident intersections -- is to install traffic lights with a counter that counts down seconds until it turns to the next color. That way, drivers aren't guessing when the light will switch, and only those willfully, not carelessly, running red lights typically still do it.


Dave said...

I don't understand why people have a problem with the idea of red light cameras. If someone runs a light, we know they did it. That means less problems with insurance and the ability to deal with people that are doing it on a regular basis.

Anonymous said...

Dave, I'm sure you won't have any problem with the next invasion of your privacy, either... like when we put a camera in your bathroom to see if you flush more than once. Or directed at your house to see if you run your sprinklers on the wrong day. Hey! we have the picture of this guy's tag, and he didn't renew it yesterday, PLUS he ran a red light! A twofer!!!

Prescott E. Small said...


Now that the RLC's are installed, how much has your insurance gone down?

Do you really feel safer?