Walnut to Keep Red Light Camera for at Least 3 More Months

Photo Credit: Google Maps
Photo Credit: Google Maps
The red light cameras in Walnut will stay put, at least for a few more months.

The Walnut City Council Wednesday night voted 4-0 to keep the cameras at the Grand/Amar/Temple intersection in place for three more months to give them more time to study options, look at data, and make a decision.

Mayor Pro Tem Nancy Tragarz abstained.

"This is a very important issue," Mayor Antonio "Tony" Cartagena said. "There's a saying 'haste makes waste.' If we decide, it should be based on the facts."

The city's contract with RedFlex, the company that provides the cameras, was set to expire Feb. 27.

Tragarz asked if the city could get that additional information by that February date and make a decision before expiration, but Councilman Bob Pacheco, who made the motion to put off the vote for three months, suggested the council take its time.

"We don't need to rush to complete this in three meetings," he said. "There's more reasons to decide why we need to or don't need to and staff needs the additional time."

Councilman Eric Ching, who agreed with Pacheco's call for more time, requested a study session at some point on the program for more information.

The city's photo enforcement program was approved in 2006 and extended for five years in February 2009.

The program costs the city $141,116 annually, $140,016 for RedFlex and $1,100 for providing annual training for the law enforcement technician who oversees it, according to the staff report.

The city estimates it gets around $130,000 in revenue annually, with $63,700 of the money restricted for public safety uses only, wrote Senior Management Analyst Rosalea Layman in a report to council.

Walnut issued 5,033 citations to drivers turning right on red at the two marked corners of the intersection in 2013.

The Los Angeles Sheriff's Department supports the red light camera program. 

Capt. Jeff Scroggin said removing the cameras could result in an additional cost annually to the city of $$260,659.  That cost would be the price for hiring one full-time deputy to patrol the streets, should that be needed in the future, he said.

With the cameras in place, deputies don't need to do enforcement at that intersection. They only need to go there when accidents occur, he said.

"I am concerned that if the cameras are removed, there would be an increase of people pushing across the intersection to get into Mt. SAC," he said.

The city cites safety as they key reason that the cameras were installed.

In the seven years before the cameras were installed, the intersection has an average of 5.7 rear-end type accidents per year and an average of 1.4 broadside-type collisions, the most serious variety, according to the staff report.

After installation, the rear-end accidents increased to 8.7 per year and the broadside variety decreased to 1.1 per year.

Layman said that Photo Enforcement Programs will typically cause an increase in rear-end type collisions and cause a decrease in the more serious broadside type collisions.

The use of red light cameras has been controversial in some ways, with opponents and proponents debating whether the devices enhance safety or even if they are legal.

Several cities have canceled their programs in recent years, including Los Angeles, Pasadena, Whittier, and Long Beach.  Cities with programs still in place include Covina, West Covina, Baldwin Park, and Montebello.

Speakers for and against the cameras in Walnut shared their thoughts on the program.

"Somebody was breaking the law and they got caught. That's just life," said Jim Dixon, Jr. "The bottom line is safety and the red light cameras are working in my opinion."

Phil Bennett said the cameras and restriction to turning right on red at two of the approaches help keep Mt. SAC students and other pedestrians protected some.

"We need to think of safety," he said.  "You've got students crossing that street and you've got people who want to make a right turn, they are looking at at cars in the intersection, not at the people crossing the street."

Those opposed to the cameras said that statistics don't show that the program has made the intersection safer at all.

Jim Lester said that a "no right turn on red" lighted sign with a symbol is all Walnut needs to deal with safety issues. He also cited an unexplained doubling of tickets in September 2012, as a major concern.

"You have an obligation to provide for public safety," he said. "The cameras have not improved public safety may have even made things worse. Ticketing is up, not down like we wold expect from cameras."

Jay Beeber, with Safer Streets LA, gave the council members an analysis of the city's program that included accident data he compiled.

He said that the city should be looking at red light running collisions rather than rear end or broadside to gauge the safety of the intesection with the cameras in place.

From 2002 to 2006, the intersection had one red-light-running-related collision, compared to five from 2007 to 2011, after the camera was installed, according to Beeber. Rear end collisions there totaled 24 before the program and 43 in the five years after, he said.  

In the staff report, the city lists 9 before the program for broadside collisions and and eight after, he said.

"That difference is not statistically significant," he said. "So the claim that the intersection is safer because there are less broadside collisions is not statistically supported."

Jay Beeber January 09, 2014 at 08:45 AM
The article mistakenly states that I said that the city should be looking at red light running collisions rather than rear end or broadside collisions to gauge the safety of the intersection with the cameras in place. What it should have stated is that I said that the city should be looking at red light running collisions rather than broadside collisions to gauge whether the cameras have improved the safety of the intersection since not all broadside collisions are red light running collisions and not all red light running collisions cause broadside collisions. Analyzing red light running collisions is more accurate than analyzing broadside collisions to determine if the cameras have improved safety. On the other hand, analyzing whether or not rear end collisions increased tells us if the cameras may have made the intersection less safe.
Jay Beeber January 09, 2014 at 09:05 AM
>Red light running collisions increase 400% from 1 before to 5 after >Rear end collisions increased 79% from 24 before to 43 after >Broadside collisions in the intersection doubled from 3 to 6 >All collisions within 1000' of the intersection increased 23% from 75 before to 92 after Read the full report: http://tinyurl.com/m8d6v8s
Vito Spago January 09, 2014 at 11:11 AM
I have seen 'no right turn on red' signs be ignored all the time at many intersections. However I am not sure making the turn on red is the problem. The problem is making the turn only when it is clear. Drivers are too stupid to determine if it is clear, so they just say, 'never right on red'. "No right turn on red' signs typically mean Walnut drivers are too stupid to determine if it is safe to continue the turn. The red light camera is irritating, but is perhaps required due to the type of driver in Walnut.
NS January 09, 2014 at 11:44 AM
Why don't we just stop milking the red light for its revenue especially when we recover more than 90% off the initial investment per year and just simply think about safety and put in overhead bridges!!!
shazaam January 09, 2014 at 02:34 PM
Vito- Not everyone driving in Walnut are Walnut residents.. People from different cities take Grand and Amar all the time. You are smarter than that to make that assumption.
Vito Spago January 09, 2014 at 03:26 PM
We have 3 drivers in our family and we all have managed to do just fine with it. I was in an accident once with a driver who kept on going when the light turned red. Luckily there were witnesses, because in those kinds of wrecks it is your word against theirs and THEY LIE. How about left turns from eastbound Valley to north on Grand. I see folks start their turn on the red. Sorry Those cameras should not be a revenue enhancer but the alternative is something like community service time which folks would never do. I do not mind the cameras. Good drivers have no problem with them.
Jim January 09, 2014 at 07:38 PM
A red light camera ticket from ANY city - including Walnut - in LA County can be ignored, as the LA courts do not report ignored camera tickets to the DMV. This was revealed in LA Times articles in 2011. Skeptical? Google: Red light camera no consequence. Also, no matter what county it came from, check to see if it is a Snitch Ticket, the fake/phishing camera tickets California police send out to bluff car owners into ID'ing the actual driver. Snitch Tickets say, at the top, "Courtesy Notice-This is not a ticket," and you can ignore them, too! Skeptical? Google: Snitch Ticket.
Michael January 09, 2014 at 10:11 PM
Hmm, why would Pacheco and Su want this vote delayed for 3 months? Right AFTER the City Council Election. This tactic will fool the majority of Walnut voters who are as dumb as rocks. Anyone that thinks this ticket camera is okay or a good idea is an idiot. As I said before, the ticket camera contract will be renewed after the election in a 4 to 1 vote. Tragerz won't hide by"abstaining" on that vote.
Lynn Glover January 09, 2014 at 10:58 PM
Over the past nearly 2 years, I have been trying to obtain collision reports on the intersection. At first, I had some success and got 2 years of post camera collision reports and 4 years of Sheriff summary reports that lack much definitive data and no vehicle code violation data. From these, by using some extrapolation I was able to decode the summaries enough to draw conclusions and make recommendations. All the while I was advised by the very same analyst who wrote the staff report to Council that no more data was available. Yet, attached to that staff report, was those Sheriff summary reports covering 7 years before the cameras and 7 years after. So, with only a couple of days before the meeting, I studied the data from the reports and concluded the results actually further substantiated my conclusions. During these two years, I have met with the Sheriff station Captain, the City Manager and 2 Council members with the most recent meeting held on the day of this Council meeting with a Council member and City Manager, who all but hijacked the meeting The findings I presented are that in the period before cameras, we had 64 total collisions and 84 after, for an increase of 31%. We also had 40 rear end-ender before and 59 after, for an increase of 47%. And red light collision increased from I to 4, a 400% increase. Rear-enders also had a higher rate of injuries than other categories at 60 to 70% I presented a complete rebuttal of the staff report. The Sheriff section, engineer section and fiscal section are all based on “belief,” not facts and legitimate analysis. The City Manager has steadfastly rejected my results because he will only rely on the engineer and Sheriff for advice in this matter. He believes anyone else, including me, is likely to put “spin” on the data. But the “spin” is coming from the other players in this charade. For example, 2 years ago, at the last election cycle, a supposedly compelling reason to have the cameras was that there had been a fatality. That morphed to 3 fatalities and ultimately to even a police officer was killed. Truth: there have been zero fatalities there over the 14 year period. That is corroborated by another analyst who uses the CHP SWITRS data base. So, the current argument, also made from whole cloth, is that the cameras have reduced red light collisions and may be a contributor to an increase in rear-ender collisions, but the overall increase in collisions is due to increased traffic. You won't find that in the engineer report and no data has been offered, nor correlation shown to substantiate this either. This is the most unconscionable “spin,” but there is other “spin” going on in the staff report, for example in the analysis using the term “broadside” collision and even in the Sheriff summaries where narrative statements are used instead of code sections to describe cause, including a term such as “other improper driving” to describe red light violations. I have presented documentation on all this to the Council and have debated it with the City Manager, who on one hand says he is neutral and it's in the hands of the Council, yet argues vigorously in favor of the cameras and is considered by a witness to be intractable on it. Lets hope now that the Council carefully reviews my results and comes to realize the intersection is less safe and the camera program has failed.
Pedro Romero January 10, 2014 at 02:06 AM
$260,659 to hire a full time deputy to patrol the area?? Five or six unemployed veterans would be more than happy to share that amount of money to patrol that area.
Vito Spago January 10, 2014 at 04:51 AM
Agreed. If that is what they pay for a full time deputy, the council is more stupid than I thought.
Walnut Walker January 10, 2014 at 07:15 AM
The statistics are so small as to be irrelevant. The fatality that happened several years ago was a traffic accident victim suffered a heart attack after being involved in a collision. It was not listed statistically as a traffic fatality because of the underlying cause of death. The police officer was struck as a pedestrian at the intersection and paralyzed. He did not die. Many of the rear end collisions were caused when people ran the red light, causing cross traffic to slam on their brakes, and then being rear ended. This is a tempest in a tea cup, used by a couple of people to spin hoping they get elected to the City Council. The would be really foolish to take out the camera,
Jay Beeber January 10, 2014 at 07:41 AM
There are no pedestrian collisions listed as occurring at this intersection in either the Sheriff's Dept. Data (2000 - 2013) or the State database (2001-2013). Whatever pedestrian collision being referred to must have happened at some other intersection. There is no evidence in any of the collision statistics that any of the rear end collisions "were caused when people ran the red light, causing cross traffic to slam on their brakes, and then being rear ended".
Lynn Glover January 10, 2014 at 02:09 PM
I'm interested in the source of the statements offered by Walnut Walker as to the heart attack victim and the officer pedestrian injury. So, please state your source and provide the data. My sources are the collision reports from deputies at the scene, the sheriff summary reports which are the same used by city staff and the state database. None of which provide insight to these two references. Further there is nothing to substantiate the claim about cross traffic collisions resulting from red light violations. On the contrary, there are at least 7 rear-enders that resulted from vehicles stopping for a yellow light as reported by deputies at the scene, a very unusual behavior in this country.
Concerned Parent January 10, 2014 at 06:35 PM
Nancy Tragarz is the only smart lady on our city council. The rest 4 are either plan to benefit financially personally or just don't care about our city. Let's get rid of those pro-camera council members ASAP. They step on our civil freedoms.
Concerned Parent January 10, 2014 at 06:38 PM
Having read a comment by Lynn Gover, our city manager is clearly dishonest!! Sheriff is in that too. Who did we hire, Tony Cartagena? I will personally invest a few thousands to opposite candidates next election cycle. Shame!
Michael January 10, 2014 at 09:28 PM
Jay Beeber, THANK YOU so much for getting involved to help Walnut. I admire what you are doing. You beat the LA City Council red-light camera corruption. Unfortunately, you can't help Walnut, after the Council election they will renew the contract because they want the money to offset the Sheriff contract city costs. Walnut voters are a confused bunch, someone here thinks Tragerz is against the camera, she has supported it for 6 YEARS. The majority of Walnut voters are too dumb to deserve you. I, and about 40% of the educated voters deeply appreciate your noble efforts.
Concerned Parent January 11, 2014 at 01:14 PM
Capt. Jeff Scroggin is blackmailing our city council. Do we really need an extra patrol man just watching that area? Maybe we should re-consider our contract with them.
Jim January 11, 2014 at 03:12 PM
Anyone who'd like to watch the court trials of these tickets can come to the El Monte courthouse at 1:30 on the first, second and fourth Tuesdays of the month. The trials are public. At the Jan. 7 trial session there were 49 Walnut camera tickets on the calendar. Of those, 27 defendants had their fine cut in half, with no point, 11 defendants had their tickets dismissed, one pled no contest, one was found guilty, and nine didn't show up at court so forfeited their bail.
Lynn Glover January 11, 2014 at 03:45 PM
Question for Jim: can you please advise reasons for dismissals and reduced fines?
Jim January 11, 2014 at 07:20 PM
For Lynn: Outside the courtroom doors, before the session started, and addressing the whole crowd of defendants, the city's rep said she would offer many people a change to CVC 38300, coasting, which carries a $238 fine and no point, thus no need to take traffic school. While she said the offer would not be extended to people with the most egregious violations, that is, people whose measured speed before making the right turn was real high, by the end of the session I could find no one who requested the offer and did not get it. She did not explain why she was making the half price no-point offer, nor did she explain why she dismissed a number of the tickets.
Jim January 12, 2014 at 03:46 PM
Oops! I described CVC 38300 as "coasting" whereas 38300 is actually the section for disobeying a sign. Both 38300 and 21710 - the correct section for coasting - carry a $238 fine and no point, so are a great improvement over 21453(a), the section usually used on red light camera tickets, which has a $490 fine and puts a point on your record unless you do traffic school.
Vito Spago January 16, 2014 at 12:27 PM
http://armstrongeconomics.com/2014/01/15/civil-forefeiture-laws-are-funding-pensions/ Interesting article. In ancient times, the Politicians allowed the sacking of the people (pillaging of the cities) in order to keep their armies loyal. City Council is doing the same against Walnut Citizens in order to pay its Police Force.


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