Friday, March 27, 2009

CITIZENS FIGHTING BACK AGAINST SPY CAMS

Wall Street Journal - Once a rarity, traffic cameras are filming away across the country. And they're not just focusing their sights on red-light runners. The latest technology includes cameras that keep tabs on highways to catch speeders in the act and infrared license-plate readers that nab ticket and tax scofflaws. . .

Drivers -- many accusing law enforcement of using spy tactics to trap unsuspecting citizens -- are fighting back with everything from pick axes to camera-blocking Santa Clauses. They're moving beyond radar detectors and CB radios to wage their own tech war against detection, using sprays that promise to blur license numbers and Web sites that plot the cameras' locations and offer tips to beat them.

Critics point to research showing cameras can actually lead to more rear-end accidents because drivers often slam their brakes when they see signs warning them of cameras in the area. Others are angry that the cameras are operated by for-profit companies that typically make around $5,000 per camera each month. . .

Suppliers estimate that there are now slightly over 3,000 red-light and speed cameras in operation in the U.S., up from about 2,500 a year ago. . .

A study in last month's Journal of Law and Economics concluded that, as many motorists have long suspected, "governments use traffic tickets as a means of generating revenue." The authors, Thomas Garrett of the St. Louis Fed and Gary Wagner of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, studied 14 years of traffic-ticket data from 96 counties in North Carolina. They found that when local-government revenue declines, police issue more tickets in the following year. . .

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