By Joshua Malina
Bal Harbour Village held a special master meeting at village hall on November 18 to hear citizens’ complaints about tickets issued by red light cameras.
Citizens appeared before a panel of officers, government officials and the special master herself, to watch their infractions appear on video, replaying their sometimes-embarrassing actions on screen.
When the infraction seemed like a close call, or the error an honest mistake, ticket holders were found not guilty. Others weren’t so lucky.
“Based on the officer’s testimony, and the video I’ve see, I’m going to find you in violation. It doesn’t look like you even attempted to stop,” the special master told Roberto Loaris. Loaris was dissatisfied. “I’ll pay my time in jail,” he said, disgruntled. However in actuality, because the penalty is currently a civil infraction, the only officials knocking down his door will be bill collectors, if he neglects to pay the city.
Others were happier with the result of the morning meeting, and avoided the $125 ticket cost. “We exercised our rights at citizens, we were heard, and we were successful,” said a citizen who did not want to be named. Sometimes the issue went beyond mere guilt or innocence. One man said that his girlfriend received a ticket in the mail for a red-light infraction, but wasn’t even driving the car.
“It was her room mate, who is long gone now,” he said in testimony.
Tickets via video camera and robo-citations are increasing in South Florida’s coastal communities.
Because it’s robots issuing the tickets, the bill gets sent to the vehicle owner, no matter who was behind the wheel. If the owner disputes, the only avenue he has to avoid responsibility is to report the car stolen.
Tickets via video camera and robo-citations are increasing in South Florida’s coastal communities. Sunny Isles Beach recently added several cameras at major intersections, although there they are used to review facts in case of incidents. Even tiny Golden Beach has a system in the works for camera monitoring.
The issue of unmanned traffic citation has become a contentious one.
“I think that it’s a hard argument to make, that traffic cameras are for public safety when it’s all about issuing citations for money with no concern who was even driving the car,” said Bay Harbor Islands resident Herb Gottimer. “It’s one thing if they are there to monitor for emergencies or even to provide a visual account of what happens in the case of an accident where fault is unclear. But this thing with robo-tickets that you hear about…that’s just a way for municipalities to make money without even having to invest any manpower in it. Public safety has nothing to do with it.”
North Miami-Dade County resident Evan Brewer feels differently.
“People drive terribly here, running lights, changing lanes without notice, speeding,” Brewer said. “Maybe knowing they are being watched will be a deterrent to [bad] driving habits. There is no way even a small municipality with one major road can catch all of the bad drivers. Hit them in their wallet and maybe they will obey some of the traffic laws. I’ve never seen a place with such disregard for even basic laws of driving.”
Bal Harbour’s meeting was the last of its kind in the scenic waterfront village. The handling of red light tickets will now become the responsibility of Miami-Dade County. There are three red light cameras in Bal Harbour.