21 May 2001
In our 9 May 2001 open letter -- to which you have not yet responded in any form -- we neglected to mention an important objection to the New York Police Department's use of "red-light cameras" (surveillance cameras that automatically photograph and record the license plate numbers of cars that go through red lights).
As reported by today's newspapers, each one of these red-light cameras costs $60,000 (the total cost of the expansion will be $9 million). This is a staggering amount of money, and a colossal waste of resources. The interests of the people of the City of New York would obviously be far better served if this money was used to employ sufficient numbers of traffic cops on the streets of New York City, and if these traffic cops were paid enough to motivate them to enforce existing laws against running red lights and other traffic violations.
But the high cost of installing and operating a large system of red-light cameras isn't the only issue here. The more important issue is the amount of revenue that such a system will bring in every year. According to City Comptroller Alan Hevesi, who favors the expansion of the red-light camera system, these cameras resulted in the issuance of 12,500 tickets in 2000. Assuming that each ticket resulted in a fine of $50, this means that the system netted the City of New York $625,000. If the number of cameras is doubled, the City will be pulling in more than $1.2 million dollars a year. Though it is ridiculously expensive to install, the system of red-light cameras will pay for itself in just over seven years.
But what exactly will be done with all this "extra" revenue? It will have been based upon an investment of public funds. Will the "extra" revenue go towards educating drivers, improving road conditions, and creating bike lanes? Or will it fund the Mayor's pet projects or line the pockets of this cronies? If people like you aren't asking these questions, crucial decisions will certainly be made (once again) behind "closed doors," without proper scrutiny by or input from the general public.
Sincerely yours, the Surveillance Camera Players.
Note: Transportation Alternatives has yet to respond to or even acknowledge receipt of the SCP's open letter.
Note as well: in its bulletin for the week of 11 June 2001, Transportation Alternatives proclaimed:
Your Advocacy Action Needed -- Speed Cams Opposed
T.A.'s Speed Camera legislation is being held up by legislative leaders in the NY State Assembly. Their reason --- fear of intruding on the privacy of speeders. Contact your assemblymember and tell them to support AO7355 and stand-up for safe streets for cyclists and pedestrians. Writing is best but calling, emailing, faxing are also great. Find your assemblymember at: www.cmap.nypirg.org.
Read more on our campaign for speed cams at: http://www.transalt.org/campaigns/reclaiming
The SCP calls upon anti-surveillance activists wherever they are to contact Transportation Alternatives and ask them to explain their failure to adequately address the threat "red light cameras" pose to our constitutionally protected right to privacy.
Contact the Surveillance Camera Players
By e-mail notbored@NOSPAMoptonline.net
By snail mail: SCP c/o NOT BORED! POB 1115, Stuyvesant Station, New York City 10009-9998