"I disapprove of the privatization of a police function," said Mark Kleinschmidt, a city councilman in Chapel Hill, N.C., where a private contractor not only installed the camera system but also carried out the initial screening of potential violations. Last year Mr. Kleinschmidt persuaded a slim majority of his colleagues to end the program after four months.
"I don't think we should bid it out to a corporation; it's strictly a police function," he said. "Then there's this distaste in the minds of many, that the whole concept is a corporate moneymaking scheme."
If the Times reporter had called me, I would have made similar points. This is one area where commercial enterprise and a core government function just don't mix.
The other day, a superior court judge in Greensboro agreed with a High Point resident's argument that in North Carolina the red light camera project is unconstitutional because the state constitution requires that the money collected go to the public schools.
The enabling legislation in North Carolina (the law that the Greensboro judge has a problem with) makes the offense civil not criminal. Most places do it that way, because the camera takes a picture of the license plate not the driver: you wouldn't know for sure if you had the right criminal defendant. But that raises another problem. The "ticket" goes to the owner of the car. No points on the driver's record, no insurance points. No way to get a habitual red light runner off the road. Nothing but a $50 fine.
I'm glad that at least a few places are seeing the light.