Are we safe yet?

The Chapel Hill Herald reports that the Town's red light camera program, instituted almost a month ago, has brought in $2 to the Town and $48 to Affiliated Computer Systems, the company that runs the program. That is to say one person has been caught running a light and paid the $50. There was no community outcry about the scourge of red-light-runners before this program was instituted. It was sold as a revenue producer for the town.

This 12-page letter from Chapel Hill resident Will Raymond (PDF) highlights many of the problems with red light cameras. The Town has requested a response from ACS.

I guess time will soon tell whether this solution in seek of a problem will actually cost the town money, or perhaps generate a little cash at the the expense of our privacy. I can't imagine the cost will be worth it. Meanwhile, watch your back at intersections of Airport Road & Estes Drive and U.S. 15-501 at Sage Road and Scarlett Drive.



For those following the red-light camera saga, the town responded Oct. 24th to 135 questions I posed Aug. 25th. Here's how I responded:

Mayor, Council Members, Candidates,

Friday, Oct. 24th, the town provided approximately 50 unique answers to the 135 questions I submitted to the council on August 25th.

Within the responses lurk a few nuggets of information, but, on the whole, it appeared that the terse answers were provided merely to fulfil a noisome task instead of trying to shed light on key elements of the red-light camera system. As I reviewed this faint effort, two thoughts came to mind: one, it took two months to crank this feeble dross out? and, two, What contempt ACS and the town engineers must have for towards those citizens of Chapel Hill concerned about this system.

Details. Details. Details. How many? How long? How much? To whom? What procedure? What guideline? I corresponded with Mr. Neppalli after I submitted these questions and re-emphasized that I wanted specifics.

Instead, they provide a few ‘solid’ details and several references to documents that, of course, didn’t exist when I posed my original questions. I’ve made comments on a number of these responses within the enclosed spreadsheet (chief of which is the .3 second trigger timing, much less than the ITRE recommendation!).

Among "No. Yes. None. Not Applicable.", were gems like "Town cannot respond to hypothetical situations." and "ACS will comply with applicable legal requirements regarding contributions." and "ACS must follow all applicable Town, State, and Federal Laws."

Quite frankly, I expect any vendor for the Town of Chapel Hill to comply with all relevant federal, state and local statutes. I did expect ACS, to be "as Caesar's wife: above reproach.", to reveal whom, if anyone, they’re donating to in the current race. And "hypothetical?" Ask Los Angeles if the $500,000 they just coughed up was hypothetical!

When I ask (providing a web-link) "…in Los Angeles, the county had to reimburse $500,000 in citations because of an error ACS committed /, would that be considered enough of a problem to invalidate the contract?", it’s either laziness or contempt that generates "ACS is not aware of any such errors."

Anticipating one more round, I took the 135 questions, reformatted them into Excel to ease both ACS’ and the engineer’s burden and highlighted those that need additional detail. I ‘bolded’ those questions I felt could use the most clarification. Mr. Ward, not a big fan of the red-light opposition, told me he thought these questions were reasonable. Should I expect any less reasoning in their answering?

I hope you review the town’s response and confirm the dearth of answers for yourself and ask, "is this a reasonable effort?" And, if you direct ACS and the town’s engineers to respond again, I hope they understand that the citizens of Chapel Hill deserve more than a "Magic Eight Ball" answer.

Thank you,

Will Raymond


I plan to appear before the town council Nov. 10th to discuss these 'annotated' questions and to provide a some supplementary examples. In addition, I will be asking them, again, to suspend enforcement of the cameras at Estes/Airport and Sage/15-501 and to not enable the one at Europa/15-501 until the critical questions have been answered fully, with supporting, verifiable, detail.

Probably to their relief, this will be the last time I appear before this council. Considering the accelerated pace of deployment, the attempt to blanket the rest of town under the cover of the holidays, if you want to be heard on this issue, Nov. 10th is your last chance this year.

For anyone interested, here's a link to the Council's agenda including Will's petition which is pretty early on the agenda so you can come out, get your $.02 in on the cameras, and still get out of there pretty quickly.

Thank you Ruby. I hope to meet some of the OrangePolitic's

crew there. I also hope the Carrboro contingent shows up,

as this system is an equal opportunity offender!

for one new council member's statement.

i will be meeting with Marc R from the Electronic Privacy Information Center tomorrow evening, but I will be with Will in spirit.

Here's a new thread on Will's petition and the Town adding another camera on 15-501:


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