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Council Takes Initial Steps to Install Red Light Cameras

By Olin Ericksen
Staff Writer

March 22 -- Soon, you may want smile if you gun it through a red light in Santa Monica -- because you might have your picture taken.

Revisiting an issue rebuffed years ago because of concerns for civil liberties, the City Council voted Tuesday to explore installing cameras at Santa Monica intersections to catch red-light runners red-handed.

The council decided to move ahead after advances in picture taking and the State's legal system zoomed in on an answer to privacy issues, including concerns that shots could include those other than the driver.

"What has changed since this was before us years ago, is state law and technology," said Council member Bob Holbrook, who placed the item back on the agenda.

"State law does not allow them to send a photographic citation with anyone showing except the driver of the car," said Holbrook.

Technology has also focused on improving the camerawork.

"There is no guess work where somebody happened to be out there when the light changed," Holbrook said. "It takes a series of photographs when a line is crossed."

Council member Kevin McKoewn -- a vocal critic of increased camera use in Santa Monica on several occasions -- seconded the motion for staff to return with more information.

"I've been very skeptical about the placement of surveillance cameras in public places, where we were creating a record of who went where with whom, when those persons were doing absolutely nothing wrong," McKeown said.

"If indeed the technology has improved, then these cameras are only taking pictures of somebody who has just done something that violates the social contract we have,” he said. “It violates it in an extraordinarily dangerous and pernicious way."

"I don't have a civil liberties concern on this," he added.

Holbrook said that cameras have been effective in stopping red-light runners in their tracks and has been a lesson to other drivers to think twice about endangering pedestrians and other motorists.


"What has changed since this was before us years ago, is state law and technology." Bob Holbrook



"I don't have a civil liberties concern on this." Kevin McKeown


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