New aim taken at Tampa red light cameras

A lawsuit filed against the City of Tampa alleges their red light camera program is unconstitutional, because it delegates too much power in enforcing potential citations to a private company.


The citations, issued to 182,061 people since 2012, could all be thrown out, and at least partial refunds issued for their $158 citations issued by American Traffic Solutions.


"You watch out for it, you're really cautious," said driver Jacob Lindgren.


The lawsuit filed by sixteen firms in South Florida alleges that because ATS chooses which photos the police see, that they are the ones who see who pays, and that they decide who gets upgraded from citation to ticket, that they're doing work the cops should be doing.


"I think privatizing any sort of law enforcement is a step in the wrong direction," said Tampa resident C.J. Boake.


The lawyers cite an October decision by a South Florida judge, who agreed with the same argument.


ATS' tickets were later dismissed wholesale in Broward and Palm Beach Counties.


"Where they went wrong is when they wrote their own citations," said attorney and legal analyst Anthony Rickman. "(They are) being the judge, jury and executioner in these types of situations."


Rickman says the so-called "unconstitutional statute" was carved by the legislature in 2010.


The Wandall Act authorized designated agents of a department, like ATS, to review possible infractions.


It also meant drivers had to prove they weren't driving, as opposed to the state proving it was.


"That flies in the face of everything we think we know about our legal system," explained Rickman.


But Tampa police say the cameras should be kept, arguing a 32-percent drop in the number of citations since 2012 indicates drivers are being more careful.


They brought in $4 million, while ATS, took in $7 million.


"The last thing I need are a bunch of tickets coming in the mail from nowhere," said Ben Cristal, of Tampa.


If the suit is victorious, citations would be thrown out.


But once the money makes it through lawyers, Rickman expects you'd only wind up with a small fraction.