The Case of the Red Light Cameras
By Betsy Dolan
The New Territory man known as Captain Van who is leading a unrelenting march against Sugar Land’s red-light cameras, now says he has proof the City is lying about using a collection agency for unpaid fines in order to cover up the fact that paying the fines is voluntary.
The City denies the accu-sations.
Captain Van filed an Open Records Request (ORR) with the City of Sugar Land in December after receiving conflicting statements in regard to his questions about the validity of the City’s collection agency.
In his ORR, Captain Van asked for the contact information for the collection agency and copies of all attempts to collect a fine from a Sugar Land resident vehicle owner.
The owner profiled in the ORR, who the Star chose not to identify, was caught by red light cameras five times between February 22, 2012 and April 27, 2012 accumulating $500 in fines which have not yet been paid.
The City of Sugar Land’s Delinquent Payment Center based in Tempe, Arizona was listed as the collection agency name and violators were asked to mail fines to the Photo Enforcement Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. In addition, the letter warned that failing to pay the fines could result in a non-renewal of the vehicle registration.
“It is an important fact that the red light camera violations are civil not criminal” Captain Van said. “It would require a large number of unpaid fines to make the filing of a civil suit cost effective. Five hundred dollars in fines and late fees by one vehicle owner were insufficient to trigger this option.”
The City of Sugar Land maintains that their agreement with American Traffic Solutions (ATS), the contractor in charge of overseeing the red light camera program, includes collection services. Furthermore, ATS is required to follow the mandates and regulations, including collections, set forth by the state and the Texas Department of Transportation.
“We have communicated to Captain Van and told him that the amount of fine assessed, the amount of the late fee for late payments and their required payment are all part of state law governing the operation of red light cameras,” said City spokesman, Doug Adolph. “The city of Sugar Land continues to use this enforcement tool because it has shown to be an effective tool to improve driver behavior at some of our heavier traveled intersections.”
Still, Captain Van maintains that the red light camera fines are voluntary because there is no way to prove who was driving the vehicle. He says the violations are not recorded in the law enforcement data base for vehicles or individual drivers. And he is continuing his petition drive to put the issue to voters. He has collected 1,033 signatures so far.