The purpose of this post is to highlight the possibility of cities using speed cameras for profit instead of safety reasons. Almost every city listed on this post are seeing record breaking profits from speed cameras although the amount of accidents in the area slightly decreased or haven’t changed at all. With extensive research I noticed a pattern of these cameras being placed in areas with a high percentage of Black residents. Most of these residents live paycheck to paycheck and can’t afford to pay their tickets when they receive them. This leads to even more problems with additional fines and fees. I’m sure many people reading this believe these individuals should just follow the speed limit/laws of the land but that’s easier said than done when you’re simply unaware of the speed cameras that are strategically placed behind trees, poles + more. Speed cameras isn’t the only way to tackle excessive speeding. Speed bumps exist for a reason and I fully believe we should consider using them before rolling out speed cameras. As of right now only 19 out of 50 states have speed cameras while the rest are pohibited by state laws or don’t exist for various reasons. East Cleveland legislators voted to end the use of speed cameras in the city the day before this post was published. Virginia was one of the states that prohibited speed cameras but a few days before this post was published they announced a pilot program to test speed cameras. This is pretty much the same way all of the 19 states mentioned began using speed cameras. At first they’re revealed as a pilot program/test for safety reasons and is deemed to be temporary but just like the income tax, temporary becomes forever once state officials realize a decent amount of money can be made. The following cities/states have been selected for this post: Maryland, DC, Philadelphia, Chicago, Rochester, NYC, Miami & Georgia.
Speed cameras were introduced to Baltimore, MD residents during 1999. The cost per infraction is around $40. After a long history of errors and irregularities with the program it was shuttered in April 2013. Between 1999-2013 around $140M was generated from speed camera tickets. After a four years of not collecting millions from residents the city decided to bring the speed cameras back in 2017. During the fiscal year of 2017 the city saw $62.2M in revenue. The following year they saw $64M in revenue. According to a study conducted by AAA approximately $1.84M of Baltimore’s speed camera revenue went towards salaries and benefits for the following positions: 4 forensic service positions, 11 civilian positions & 8 other positions. The city also spent $1.2M on body cameras for officers, $24,000 for 3 dogs, $57,000 for a robot & $6,000 for a MM multi-launcher. Speed camera reports for 2015-2022 (published by Baltimore County officials) can be read here.
Speed cameras were introduced to DC residents during 2012 with a total of 74 cameras. After a year of nonstop tickets the city netted $78.8M. Fast forward to 2016 DC saw around $100M in revenue from speed cameras. At that point city officials realized there’s a lot of money that can be made from ticketing residents and visitors. The strategic placement of a speed camera on I-295 during 2018 shows how money hungry these people are. Out of dozens of cameras in DC the I-295 camera generated more than $100M by itself. Compared to the $100M numerous cameras generated in 2016 that’s pretty interesting. If you believe these speed cameras are a money grab then you’re not alone. AAA Mid Atlantic representative John Townsend said cameras like the one on I-295 are nothing but a speed trap. The I-295 camera charge drivers with additional penalties if they’re caught “speeding” due to the zone being considered a construction zone, even though there’s no signs of work. This led to ABC7 doing an investigation of their to own to see what all the fuss is about. In the end they realized the people that complained about the camera are right because there’s literally no signs of construction on the stretch of highway where the camera is located. Not a single cone, bag of sand, equipment or anything. They also noticed the speed limit was reduced illegally according to city laws. Title 18 2200.2 states “a decision to raise or lower the speed limit is made on the basis of an engineering and traffic investigation.”. With the Freedom of Information Act a copy of the investigation report which is required for a speed limit adjustment was requested. Unfortunately the ABC7 team were told by the FOIA Administrator that investigation report doesn’t exist. At that point drivers are forced to think the main purpose of the speed camera is to generate millions of dollars in revenue for the city. By the time you finish reading this post more than 120 DC drivers will receive a ticket for speeding. Some tickets will be as high as $800 depending on the violation. During the beginning of 2023 DC officials announced a new plan to install 130 cameras in effort to reduce pedestrian deaths and illegal driving. Right now there’s already 136 speed cameras in DC so an additional 130 cameras is actually insane considering the size of the city. Even with 136 speed cameras traffic deaths (282) hit a 14yr high in DC during 2021. That number is a 6% increase from the 2020 numbers and a 12% increase from 2019. With that being said the cameras aren’t stopping accidents from happening and other forms of accident prevention should be taken into consideration. Coincidentally most of these cameras are placed in the low income districts with mostly black people. As mentioned before these residents can’t afford a surprise ticket so when they go unpaid it could lead to even more headaches. A new bill was introduced recently and if passed it will be a nightmare for the people that struggle to pay their violations. Under this bill if a ticket goes unpaid the driver will see more fees and points. The points would be something new, right now anyone who gets 10-11 points will lose their driving privileges for 90 days. Anyone with 12+ points will lose their driving privileges until further notice or a set of requirements are met. Also any vehicle with more than $14,000 in unpaid tickets will be booted. Compared to other cities that one isn’t bad at all, in Philadelphia they’ll boot your vehicle because of a $100 balance (trust me I’ve seen it happen).
Speed cameras were introduced to Philadelphia, PA residents during 2019 after state legislators approved a 5 year pilot program to bring speed cameras to Philadelphia. The city saw $22M+ in speed camera revenue in 2022. The 2022 speed camera report (published by Philadelphia Parking Authority) can be read here.
Red-Light cameras were introduced to Chicago residents during 2003 after a 30 day experiment. During the 30 days drivers were monitored by 300 cameras around the city and 4,500+ violations were recorded. This made Chicago’s program the largest in the country. In 2016 a Chicago city official was sentenced to 10 years in prison for taking $2M in bribes from a red-light camera company in exchange for a contract to supply cameras to the city. Both Red-Light and speed cameras provide a huge amount of revenue for Chicago so anyone that’s involved with the program will win big. Tickets brought in around $264M in 2016 (7% of the city’s $3.6 billion operating budget). That same year Chicago suspended the 21,000+ drivers licenses. After just 2 unpaid tickets a vehicle is placed on the boot list and if drivers accumulate 10 unpaid parking tickets or 5 unpaid traffic camera tickets their license get suspended. More citations are issued in Chicago (per adult) than in Los Angeles or New York City. What makes things worse is a 2018 report from ProPublica showed how most of the violations affected black people and ultimately sent them into bankruptcy or threatened their livelihoods. During 2020 the city sent out 500,000+ red-light camera tickets from 300 camers spread out around the city. Those tickets brought in $52M+ and considering the fact that the coronavirus pandemic happened that year the city could’ve made much more. Speed cameras weren’t introduced to Chicago residents until 2013 with 160 cameras. Fast forward to 2021 Chicago sent out 3.8M speed camera tickets starting at $35 per violation. That amount is roughly 1.4 tickets per resident. With that being said the city received $89M that year from speed cameras alone at a rate of $250,000 every day of the week. A study from UIC (University of Illinois Chicago) was released this year showing how the cameras in the Chicago never improved the safety of drivers within city limits. 3 out of 10 cameras didn’t improve safety and 16 cameras actually increased traffic collisions. The study also showed that almost half of the tickets issued aren’t paid within the time given which leads to additional fees. A $35 ticket becomes $85 after the due date and a $100 ticket becomes $244 after the due date. Since the first speed camera was installed (2013) Illinois made $750M, yes nearly a billion dollars. The full study from UIC can be read here.
Red-Light cameras were introduced to Rochester, NY residents during 2010. After 6 years of terrorizing Rochester residents the city decided to end the pilot program because residents from low income neighborhoods received the most tickets and the financial damage was way larger than safety benefits. The cost per infraction was $50. With 48 cameras the city saw $800,000-$1M every year. Residents often argued that most of the cameras didn’t give them the 3.6 seconds that’s required for yellow lights.
Speed cameras were introduced to NYC residents during 2013 when the city installed cameras in 20 school zones. The following year the program expanded to 140 school zones. In 2018 NYC saw $45M in revenue from tickets. In 2019 Queens drivers received 371,546 tickets which came out to be $18M in fines. According to a report from city officials during 2020 a total of 4.3M tickets were sent out and came out to be $219M in fines. The full report can be read here. The cost per infraction is $50 although greedy state officials tried passing a law that would increase the fines for repeat offenders. Before 2022 speed cameras weren’t legally permitted to operate overnight or weekend hours but after tons of money poured in that changed as of August (2022). At this point the city placed 2,000+ cameras in 750 school zones. After the new rules were set, in just a 4 week span the city sent out 656,794 tickets and 333,284 were during the hours cameras weren’t operating before. At $50 per infraction the city saw $32.8M during August 2022 alone. When broken down that’s 23,000 tickets per day, 977 tickets per hour or 16 tickets per minute. It’s safe to say the city have no plans of ending this program anytime soon.
Red-Light cameras were introduced to Miami, FL residents during 2010. After 7 years of terrorizing Rochester residents the city decided to end the pilot program because residents from low income neighborhoods received the most tickets and the financial damage was way larger than safety benefits. The cost per infraction was $180.
Speed cameras were introduced to Gwinnett County residents during 2021 after a Illinois based company named RedSpeed USA was approved for a contract. RedSpeed USA offers speed cameras at no expense and most cities see that as a win-win being as though they’d still see revenue from the cameras while “improving” the safety of drivers. With their money hungry tactics RedSpeed USA currently hold contracts with 40+ counties in Georgia including Clayton, Henry, Duluth, Lilburn, Norcross and Snellville. Norcross county received $1.6M from 60,000+ tickets during their 2020-2021 fiscal year. Gwinnett County expected to see at least $6.1M in revenue after installing the cameras. The breakdown of the total funds received is 71.6% to the county and the rest to RedSpeed USA.
Speed cameras are a tax for speeding over city and municipality ordinances. A license, same thing. Farmers had to pay a tax 200 years ago to transport their cattle across dirt roads. State subsidiary corporations, gutted of an economy, tax citizens under limited agency in all kinds of ways.