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Armey Attacks Use of Photo Radar for Traffic Surveillance

Photonics Spectra
Jun 2001
In a May 8 letter to US Interior Secretary Gale Norton, House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, challenged a plan to install photo radar systems on Washington-area parkways, characterizing the proposal as a "step toward a Big Brother surveillance state.

"Armey urged a review of what he calls a "spy camera program" designed to establish a "revenue-raising system" without congressional approval. The photo radar cameras would photograph the license plates of alleged violators, who would receive citations by mail.

"The violation to your privacy rights by having a picture taken of you is less onerous than having an officer walk up and look into your car," countered Patrick Nelson, program manager for the Portland Police Bureau's traffic bureau in Oregon, where a photo radar program was studied from 1995 to 1997 and currently is in place. He noted that the city of Portland spends $180,000 per year to run the program, not including the salaries of the officers operating the systems and the leasing costs.

Despite the fact that the city loses money with photo radar, the benefits are worth it, Nelson said, because the systems have reduced speeding violations by up to 88 percent in the monitored areas, including school zones. "They absolutely work," he said.

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