The story below was written February 12, 2009 by Carleen McGillick, a junior at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.
Photo Enforcement Programs Have Strong Foothold in Arizona, United States
PHOENIX - Photo enforcement has become entrenched in law enforcement on roads in Arizona, the United States and worldwide.
Photo enforcement programs utilize photography and detection technology to document and prosecute infractions such as running red lights and speeding. Cameras are typically stationed at intersections or in mobile vans.
Photo enforcement was initially conceptualized in England as a way to use photography for “trapping motorists,” as reported by a Popular Mechanics article in 1905.
The first programs using modern photo enforcement methods were first instituted in Europe in the 1970s, according to a 2007 report on photo enforcement by the University of California at Berkeley.
Internationally, photo enforcement programs currently exist in Australia, Germany, the United Kingdom, Korea, Taiwan, the United Arab Emirates and nine other countries in addition to the United States.
As photo enforcement began to take hold across Europe in the 1970s, it was then only being tested in the United States, in Texas, the report added.
Photo enforcement was first used in the United States in 1987 in Paradise Valley, Ariz., said Mike Cynecki, the City of Phoenix’s traffic engineering supervisor.
In the U.S., 25 states and Washington, D.C. utilize photo enforcement programs, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. New Jersey and Indiana plan to add photo enforcement programs soon.
“Around the country, photo enforcement is being used by a number of counties and municipalities,” said Bart Graves, the spokesman for the Arizona Department of Public Safety.
"Arizona is the only state to implement photo enforcement along its federal and state highways."
- Bart Graves
Arizona in particular has been an American pioneer in photo enforcement usage since its arrival. Over the next twenty years, numerous other cities in Arizona followed Paradise Valley’s lead by instating photo enforcement programs.
“Phoenix did not begin a photo enforcement program until late 2001,” Cynecki said. Phoenix currently has “11 red light cameras and two stopped-at-school photo enforcement vans.”
Continuing its pioneering legacy, “Arizona is the only state to implement photo enforcement along its federal and state highways,” Graves said.
Photo enforcement use on Arizona’ highway system began in November 2007 when the Arizona Department of Public Safety instituted a two-year pilot program, Graves added. Approved by the Arizona Legislature, the program expanded Arizona’s photo enforcement use to include 100 photo enforcement cameras, 60 of which are stationary and 40 are mobile.
The program was introduced “in an effort to reduce serious injury and fatal collisions,” Graves said.
Photo enforcement has long been a magnet for legal, safety, economic and political controversy. Several states and municipalities nationwide have passed legislation governing, limiting or eliminating photo enforcement use. Still other states and counties hope to adopt photo enforcement programs in the near future.
In Arizona, independently conducted polls show the photo enforcement programs garner a “significant amount of support,” Graves said. “The media is more focused on the naysayers.”
“Regretfully, I believe that the general public would agree to continue the photo enforcement,” attorney-at-law John Banta said.
“I do not believe this is the time to put a proposition on the ballot. Wait until more people are cited,” Banta added. “Too many people are willing to forgo their rights for a bit more security.”
Arizona expects to keep their photo enforcement programs at their current strength “for the near future,” Graves said.