M. Alex Johnson – Journalist at Large

An analog journalist in a digital world

Posts Tagged ‘houston

Reporting: Challenges to red light cameras span U.S.

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Video: NBC's Kerry Sanders reportsCross-posted from msnbc.com, where it originally appeared. To read it in context, with all information boxes and art, click here.

In more than 500 cities and towns in 25 states, silent sentries keep watch over intersections, snapping photos and shooting video of drivers who run red lights. The cameras are on the job in metropolises like Houston and Chicago and in small towns like Selmer, Tenn., population 4,700, where a single camera setup monitors traffic at the intersection of U.S. Highway 64 and Mulberry Avenue.

One of the places is Los Angeles, where, if the Police Commission gets its way, the red light cameras will have to come down in a few weeks. That puts the nation’s second-largest city at the leading edge of an anti-camera movement that appears to have been gaining traction across the country in recent weeks.

A City Council committee is considering whether to continue the city’s camera contract over the objections of the commission, which voted unanimously to remove the camera system, which shoots video of cars running red lights at 32 of the city’s thousands of intersections. The private Arizona company that installed the cameras and runs the program mails off $446 tickets to their registered owners.

The company’s contract will expire at the end of July if the council can’t reach a final agreement to renew it.

Opponents of the cameras often argue that they are really just revenue engines for struggling cities and towns, silently dinging motorists for mostly minor infractions. And while guidelines issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration say revenue is an invalid justification for the use of the eyes in the sky, camera-generated citations do spin off a lot of money in many cities — the nearly 400 cameras in Chicago, for example, generated more than $64 million in 2009, the last year for which complete figures were available.


Federal camera guidelines
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says red light cameras and other automated traffic controls should:

• Reduce the frequency of violations.
• Maximize safety improvements with the most efficient use of resources.
• Maximize public awareness and approval.
• Maximize perceived likelihood that violators will be caught.
• Enhance the capabilities of traffic law enforcement and supplement, rather than replace, traffic stops by officers.
• Emphasize deterrence rather than punishment.
• Emphasize safety rather than revenue generation.
• Maintain program transparency by educating the public about program operations and be prepared to explain and justify decisions that affect program operations.

Source: Speed Enforcement Camera Systems Operational Guidelines, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration


Los Angeles hasn’t been so lucky.

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Teacher layoffs raise class-size tensions

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Video: NBC's Rehema Ellis reports.

Video: Higher projected classroom sizes have sparked a debate on whether student performance will suffer. NBC's Rehema Ellis reports.

As governments struggle to reduce education deficits, they are considering closing thousands of schools and laying off huge numbers of teachers. What will that do to class sizes, and what will it mean for pupils?

In fact, research into whether smaller classes actually improve academic performance is extensive but contradictory.

“Probably few issues in education have been studied as often as class size, yet few studies have produced satisfactory or consistent results,” said researchers at Health and Education Research Operative Services, a nonprofit foundation that studies education programs nationwide.

Full story (Rehema Ellis, Victor Limjoco and Alex Johnson/NBC News)

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Written by Alex

March 1, 2011 at 4:36 pm

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