Some cities switching off their red light cameras? - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Some cities switching off their red light cameras?

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SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - More and more California cities are putting the brakes on red-light cameras at busy intersections. Police departments argue the cameras are saving lives, but not everyone sees the program as such a pretty picture.

With ticket in hand, David Swanson admits he may have run a red light, but today's more about principal. Whether he ran the red light or not came down to a matter of inches. So Swanson wants to know why the camera that nabbed him is 100 feet away from the white line.

"I'm a professional photographer, i seel photos for a living. If I want a good photo of something I don't park 50 feet away," he said.

Swanson says in horse racing there's an accurate photo finish, so to justify his $528 ticket, he thinks the city should be exact.

"What they have done is tweak the system to maximize revenues," Swanson said.

Mitchell Mehdy, the attorney who calls himself "Mr. Ticket", says red light cameras are rigged to milk money out of the public.

"Why is this ticket double the price of a speeding ticket?" he said.

The mayor of Loma Linda, California, who switched off his city's red light cameras, says he knows the answer to that question.

"The red light camera business is all about helping cities extort money from their citizens," Mayor Rhodes Rigsby said.

Mayor Rigsby says after 40,000 tickets were issued for a total of $15 million in fines, his city only netted $200,000.

"Well, it's horrible and if we had netted more I would not have felt much better. I consider it to be blood money," Rigsby said.

He says most of that money goes to the state, county and red light camera companies. But the City of San Diego disagrees.

"These cameras are saving lives," a city spokesperson said.

In 2001 before red light cameras, there were 895 red light running accidents. In 2009, only 556 crashes.

"We have the statistics and the proof is in the numbers," a city spokesperson said.

David Swanson says he has a spotless driving record, and feels a $500 fine is overkill for what may or may not have been a mistake.

"I don't think it's a fair assessment. I have one moving violation to my name in the last 20 or 21 years -- one ticket," he said.

Although cities like Loma Linda, Anaheim and Whittier have canceled their programs, red light cameras will continue to operate at 15 San Diego intersections.

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