cameras speed

Camera's could result in speeding tickets in the mail for New Iberia residents.

A Tennessee-based company that promises to increase city revenue and help save lives will be making a proposal to City Council Tuesday night.

The company, Blue Line Solutions, is expected to propose a plan that would install a network of cameras along city streets in an effort to crack down on speeders.

Blue Line, in previous contracts with cities, installs the network at no cost to the city but takes a percentage of the fines, usually around 35 to 40 percent.

The program has its benefits but has proven controversial in some cities.

Blue Line last year was ordered to pay a $175,000 settlement to drivers who were wrongly ticketed along Interstate 80 in Girard, Ohio.

According to the lawsuit filed against Blue Line and the city of Gerard, a certain stretch of the interstate had been 55 mph during a period of construction. Once construction ended, the speed limit returned to the normal 65 mph limit.

Blue Line, however, continued ticketing drivers for speeding through a construction zone for at least another month. Drivers who appealed not only had to pay the fine but an additional $25 fee, along with late fees, according to DannLaw law offices, which filed the suit.

Not only that but Blue Line and similar companies are also capable of placing liens on cars associated with tags captured in photographs. In an article on The Georgia Virtue, the terms of most financed vehicles, a second lien on a vehicle impairs the security interest of the first lien holder – the financier – which can initiate the repossession process. That means failure to pay a violation can trigger your vehicle being repossessed.

Blue Line also has come under scrutiny for its contracts, which sometimes include a system of handheld cameras that police can use to nab speeders. Blue Line pays communities stipends, along with police overtime costs that allow officers to use the cameras more often. While that increased city revenues, it also generated much more revenue for Blue Line.

"The added revenue certainly encourages local communities and officers to increase the amount of time they spend operating the traffic cameras, thereby pumping up revenue for the local governments — not to mention for the company that is located hundreds of miles out of state," an editorial in The Tribune Chronicle of Warren, Ohio. "How this can be described as anything other than policing for profit is incomprehensible."

In another Ohio town, New Miami, the city was ordered to pay a $3 million settlement to repay traffic fines after court ordered that its camera program was unconstitutional and did not give drivers due process. Blue Line was not ordered to pay as the cameras are usually operated by officers hired by cities.

Drivers caught speeding, obviously have had issues with the cameras, which sometimes aren't calibrated and can relay false readings.

"Crooks," Nikki Anderson wrote on Blue Line's Facebook page. "And that’s putting it nicely. I got my ticket in the mail after we drove through East Liverpool in dense fog. They driver couldn’t have been speeding even if he wanted too. But I sent in a check anyway. A month later, I got a bill stating I owed double the amount! I called them, and they said they may not have processed my check yet, and I would have to pay the original bill plus a $35 late fee. I was treated like an absolute criminal because my car was caught “speeding” by one of their cameras. Both the representative and supervisor that I spoke with refused to identify themselves. They threatened to report me to the credit bureau if I didn’t give them the money they wanted. So I had to pay with a card over the phone. Unfortunately, I had to pay to cancel a check on top of it all.

"After spending 12 years working as a patrol officer, I’m ashamed that your company name even implies that you are associated with law enforcement."

Despite its detractors the program does have support in some cities.

In South Fulton, Ga. city officials cited the studies Blue Line did through school zones. In one study, more than 100,000 cars passed through a school zone in one day, withy more than 25,000 of them violating traffic laws. Officials cited safety as the main reason to use speed cameras.

The other benefit? Cash.

In Vidalia, Ga., with a population about half the size of New Iberia, the city raked in nearly $600,000 in revenue from speeding fines in the first two years of its contract with Blue Line, according to The Georgia Virtue.

A representative for Blue Line is expected to be the third item on Council's agenda Tuesday. The meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. in City Hall Council Chambers.