“The Rochester Police Department is deploying the latest technology to keep motorists and pedestrians safe,” or so says the City of Rochester’s Orwellian-themed Red Light Camera Traffic Safety Program webpage. Don’t you feel safer already? Having motorists bombarded with bright, flashing lights while crossing busy intersections and ready to cause a rear-end collision whenever their Photo Finish-conditioned brake foot sees a yellow light must logically promote safety, it just must. The camera program began in 2010; your worry, stress and aggravation should have all been reduced significantly by now.
Of course, a city bereft of ideas save another decade of soccer stadium subsidies, a proposal for yet one more WNY casino to raise revenue (spearheaded by a local “magnate” and purveyor of abandoned shopping malls) and, ahem, augment the local culture offerings, and a red-light tax collection scheme otherwise known as City Council Buffoonery Item X, is, well, one that would be considering these things.
I say nothing about the vigorous parking enforcement downtown even on days it is nearly empty. It is fitting that visitors to the city and locals alike are to be ensured to experience an altogether miserable time. A Florida judge ruled such camera ticketing systems unconstitutional this past month since they improperly shift the burden of proof onto the defendant. Such due process concerns are naturally passé in New York where the entire DMV administrative adjudication system for large cities represents an elaborate show trial. Let us just say that the moral of the story is: Don’t live in a large NYS city and do not drive in one. Lawmakers never understand the unintended consequences of their bullying legislative acts.
Aside from other concerns, the general obnoxiousness of these cameras matters not since City of Rochester, Inc. is rolling in the dough beyond expectations. As the Democrat and Chronicle reported, the City is collecting far more revenue from the program than expected.
Why not issue speeding tickets by camera as well? Law enforcement is, we know, all about such easy distinctions. Cameras could scan for crimes and traffic violations everywhere. Jaywalkers, for example, could have strobe-lights stop them in their tracks while crossing a busy street. In fact, I suggest just one limitation upon a new broad-based power to bring charges by camera: City Councilmembers and employees in support must have a camera installed at their own front doors and driveways. A live feed could be made available to watchdog citizens. As visionary leaders of the City who set an example, its elected officials should be the first to suffer under their own rule, all for the sake of “safety.”
City leaders willing to patronize their tax-paying constituents with paternalistic “Photo Finish” billboard and television advertisements are not going to attract business or residents. Basically, we have leaders Detroit would reject as incompetent and Chicago would consider unpalatable, which is really something to behold.