RIVERSIDE, Calif. -

Following a 5-2 City Council vote tonight, the red light traffic camera enforcement in Riverside will come to an end.    ``This program isn't in place for safety; it's there to fatten pocketbooks,'' Riverside resident Karen Wright told the council before the vote.  ``There are plenty of steps this city can take to make intersections safer and reduce accidents that would cost little to nothing.''   Wright was among a dozen people who addressed the council during a roughly hour long public hearing at City Hall.

Eight speakers expressed vehement opposition to the cameras, while only one spoke passionately in favor of keeping them said retired Riverside County Sheriff's Deputy Don Teagarden, who has worked for years as one of the city's red light camera analysts, or ``operators,'' writing and issuing citations to alleged offenders.  ``People oppose this program the same way they do cellphone laws, fireworks laws, speed laws,'' Teagarden said.   ``Don't listen to the myths and media hype. This program has proven
effective at reducing collisions and traffic violations.''

Councilman Andy Melendrez, who represents Riverside's Eastside quarter, had consistently backed the program but switched sides tonight, saying the $505 tickets had gotten too high and were hurting ``low-income residents.''   Meantime, Councilman Chris Mac Arthur said he had received an avalanche of complaints about the red light cams. ``The will of the people takes precedence over the interests of the bureaucracy,'' Mac Arthur said. ``It's time, once and for all, to terminate this program.''

Councilman Mike Soubirous, a retired California Highway Patrol lieutenant, led the vote to ``unplug'' the photo enforcement system.  ``Most people see this as a revenue tool, not an educational tool or deterrent,'' Soubirous told City News Service   ``The data doesn't support the argument that these cameras are preventing wrecks. Eighty-five percent of the people I'm hearing from,  even though they've never been ticketed,  hate these things. The cameras scare them, freak them out. They're uneasy about even going through a yellow light at intersections.''   Councilman Mike Gardner stood by the system, holding to the belief that it ``contributes to motor vehicle safety.'' 

``The penalties are too high, yes,'' Gardner said. ``But that's the fault of the Legislature. And the penalties would be that amount whether an officer was writing the ticket or it resulted from a camera-recorded violation.''

The city utilizes retired police officers and sheriff's deputies to function as ``operators'' of the system, analyzing alleged violations recorded by still and video cameras.   Many times, the defendant in a red light camera case can receive a citation signed by one ``operator'' only to be confronted by another when it comes time for trial.   Defendants are not routinely given the opportunity to ask questions of the original citation signer or the part-time technicians who position the cameras and adjust their settings. Such practices have led to appellate court challenges, and in at least two published cases in Los Angeles and Orange counties, the defendants were successful in getting their red light camera convictions overturned as violations of the U.S. Constitution's Sixth Amendment, which guarantees the accused the right to confront the ``witnesses against him.''

According to the Riverside Department of Public Works, between fiscal years 2006-07 and 2013-14, the red light camera system generated $16.69 million in revenue from fines. That money has been split between the city, the courts, the state and other entities. It also does not reflect expenditures for maintenance, camera leasing and personnel costs.   The program was supposed to remain ``revenue neutral,'' generating only sufficient funds to pay for itself while functioning as a means to deter scofflaws, according to Department of Public Works Director Tom Boyd.   However, Boyd told the council tonight that by using various methods, including placing cameras at more strategically advantageous spots, the city had captured nearly $500,000 in unanticipated net gains over the last two years.

The city contracts with Australia-based Redflex Traffic Systems Inc. for its photo-enforcement system. Soubirous and other residents complained that money was going out of the country that could be spent on better things locally or at least in-state.   At least one speaker cited reports of Redflex resorting to arguably corrupt practices to maintain its contracts with cities throughout the nation.   Soubirous said the bottom line for him was that the cameras offered no veritable deterrent effect.   ``People who are texting while driving -- or worse, who are driving drunk -- aren't paying attention anyway,'' he said.

``They're going to run the red light, no matter how bad the consequences. But somebody ticketed for a slow rolling right turn? That doesn't justify having a camera at an intersection.''   Voters in Murrieta approved an initiative in 2012 seeking to end that city's six-year-old red light traffic camera program. Supporters pointed to a surge in rear-end collisions at camera-enforced intersections and noted the unfriendly reputation the cameras gave the southwest Riverside County city.

A judge invalidated the ballot measure based on arguments that it encroached on the City Council's authority. However, less than six months later, the council voted to deactivate the system anyway. Riverside's system, in place since 2006 and now consisting of 14 cameras, will be taken out of service permanently in 60 days.ty city to end its red light traffic camera enforcement program following a 5-2 City Council vote tonight.  ``This program isn't in place for safety; it's there to fatten pocketbooks,'' Riverside resident Karen Wright told the council before the vote.

"There are plenty of steps this city can take to make intersections safer and reduce accidents that would cost little to nothing.''   Wright was among a dozen people who addressed the council during a roughly hourlong public hearing at City Hall.  Eight speakers expressed vehement opposition to the cameras, while only one spoke passionately in favor of keeping them, retired Riverside County sheriff's Deputy Don Teagarden, who has worked for years as one of the city's red light camera analysts, or ``operators,'' writing and issuing citations to alleged offenders.    ``People oppose this program the same way they do cellphone laws, fireworks laws, speed laws,'' Teagarden said.   ``Don't listen to the myths and media hype. This program has proven effective at reducing collisions and traffic violations.''

Councilman Andy Melendrez, who represents Riverside's Eastside quarter, had consistently backed the program but switched sides tonight, saying the $505 tickets had gotten too high and were hurting ``low-income residents.''   Meantime, Councilman Chris Mac Arthur said he had received an avalanche of complaints about the red light cams.   ``The will of the people takes precedence over the interests of the
bureaucracy,'' Mac Arthur said. ``It's time, once and for all, to terminate this program.'' Councilman Mike Soubirous, a retired California Highway Patrol lieutenant, led the vote to ``unplug'' the photo enforcement system   ``Most people see this as a revenue tool, not an educational tool or deterrent,'' Soubirous told City News Service.

``The data doesn't support the argument that these cameras are preventing wrecks. Eighty-five percent of the people I'm hearing from, even though they've never been ticketed -- hate these things. The cameras scare them, freak them out. They're uneasy about even going through a yellow light at intersections.''   Councilman Mike Gardner stood by the system, holding to the belief that it ``contributes to motor vehicle safety.''
 ``The penalties are too high, yes,'' Gardner said. ``But that's the fault of the Legislature. And the penalties would be that amount whether an officer was writing the ticket or it resulted from a camera-recorded violation.''

The city utilizes retired police officers and sheriff's deputies to function as ``operators'' of the system, analyzing alleged violations recorded by still and video cameras.  Many times, the defendant in a red light camera case can receive a citation signed by one ``operator'' only to be confronted by another when it comes time for trial.

Defendants are not routinely given the opportunity to ask questions of the original citation signer or the part-time technicians who position the cameras and adjust their settings.   Such practices have led to appellate court challenges, and in at least two published cases in Los Angeles and Orange counties, the defendants were successful in getting their red light camera convictions overturned as violations of the U.S. Constitution's Sixth Amendment, which guarantees the accused the right to confront the ``witnesses against him.''

According to the Riverside Department of Public Works, between fiscal years 2006-07 and 2013-14, the red light camera system generated $16.69 million in revenue from fines. That money has been split between the city, the courts, the state and other entities. It also does not reflect expenditures for maintenance, camera leasing and personnel costs.  The program was supposed to remain ``revenue neutral,'' generating only sufficient funds to pay for itself while functioning as a means to deter scofflaws, according to Department of Public Works Director Tom Boyd.   However, Boyd told the council tonight that by using various methods, including placing cameras at more strategically advantageous spots, the city had captured nearly $500,000 in unanticipated net gains over the last two years.

The city contracts with Australia-based Redflex Traffic Systems Inc. for its photo enforcement system.   Soubirous and other residents complained that money was going out of the country that could be spent on better things locally or at least in-state.   At least one speaker cited reports of Redflex resorting to arguably corrupt practices to maintain its contracts with cities throughout the nation.   Soubirous said the bottom line for him was that the cameras offered no veritable deterrent effect.   ``People who are texting while driving -- or worse, who are driving drunk, aren't paying attention anyway,'' he said.   ``They're going to run the red light, no matter how bad the consequences. But somebody ticketed for a slow rolling right turn? That doesn't justify having a camera at an intersection.''   Voters in Murrieta approved an initiative in 2012 seeking to end that city's six-year-old red light traffic camera program. Supporters pointed to a surge in rear-end collisions at camera-enforced intersections and noted the unfriendly reputation the cameras gave the southwest Riverside County city.

A judge invalidated the ballot measure based on arguments that it encroached on the City Council's authority. However, less than six months later, the council voted to deactivate the system anyway.   Riverside's system, in place since 2006 and now consisting of 14 cameras, will be taken out of service permanently in 60 days.