In our opinion these vans are the least offensive of the STOP components. Unlike their fixed intersection counterparts, the vans have a police officer present who performs calibration at the beginning of the operation, at the end, run the internal radar check. At best the intersection scam-eras run only an internal check and as far as we know are never independently calibrated.
Before you think that The Eye has gone over the edge, the equipment calibration and the presence of a sworn police officer are the only two things we don't object to.
Like the scam-eras, the scam-vans issue a citation by mail complete with photographic "evidence" that your vehicle has become an evil-doer. There is no indication of who the driver is and no direct evidence that your vehicle has indeed violated the law and become a public nuisance.
(Sidebar)When you receive a speed van citation (on behalf of your dastardly vehicle) you have the option of paying or challenging the citation in Marty-roo court; run by the same "hearing officers" that run the rest of the scam-era program and who are hired (and potentially fired) by the Almighty Alcalde.
The Village of Los Lunas is suing the City of Albuquerque in District Court because the scam-eras give no indication of who is actually driving the vehicle. Apparently, the Chief of the Los Lunas Police Department (or more specifically his scofflaw vehicle) received a scam-era citation and the village doesn't want to pay unless the City of Albuquerque proves who was driving the village vehicle. (KOB-TV read it here.)
Remember people don't run red lights - vehicles do! We can't be expected to know what our vehicles are up to when we're not driving them!
We received information and supporting documentation about one of these speed van incidents just today. In this case, the owner of the unruly vehicle decided to challenge the citation and took the time to obtain the Speed Van Deployment Log of speed van number 1.
The log clearly shows the date, speed limit, start time, end time, and location of the speed van. It also contains the notes of the attending police officer. What's interesting is that the officer's notes include a list of license plates followed by statements like "(no violation) other vehicle trip camera" which indicates to us that this particular officer was paying attention to the operation of the equipment.
On this day back in June - June 19th to be exact - the mobile revenue generator... uh, scam-van started rolling in the dough at 0907 and stopped filling city coffers at 1213. In that 3 hour and 6 minute period, 5278 vehicles were assessed of which 1306 were tagged for violating the speed limit - that's 25% of all of the vehicles passing scam-van 1.
We know that the Albuquerque isn't exactly known for driving too slow, but 25% of all vehicles in a three hour period were exceeding the speed limit by 10 MPH or greater?! Come on!
Here's the problem... and what ultimately led to the dismissal of this scam-van citation. The van was parked and operating in an "improperly marked" zone. You see the scam-van was sitting in a 65 MPH zone and handing out citations as if it were a 55 MPH zone. Ooops!
The hearing officer down at Marty-roo court knew about the mistake and promptly dismissed the citation marking the Findings of Fact Decision and Order sheet as being dismissed by the APD officer. The "judge" went on to tell this particular defendant and his attorney that ALL of the citations from June 19th were being dismissed. (Go ahead and check your citations... we'll wait.)
When we heard this story it clicked with some other information that we've had for some time. Our Eyes told us a few months ago that an APD scam-van officer had reported to their supervisor that there was a problem with one of the vans that made all of the citations issued that day suspect. According to our Eyes the officer was told to send the citations anyway. Let's say that again... the officer was told to issue suspect citations despite his belief that they were inaccurate.
We don't know whether or not these two stories are actually the same story from two different sides. However, if the owner of the dastardly Dodge, Ford, Chevy, Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Mercedes, BMW, etc. had simply paid the citation (which you are nearly threatened with your life to do in the citation letter) they would have never known about the scam-van problem June 19th and the city would have happily dumped their money into the general fund.
This is the problem when PROFIT gets involved in law enforcement. If only half (we'd bet it's more like 70% to 80%) of the citation recipients decided to simply pay, the city would have hauled in almost $100,000. And if the numbers from the recent audit are any indication $54,000 would have been considered "excess money" a.k.a. PROFIT. Not bad for 3 hours and 6 minutes on the freeway.
There can be little doubt that the Red Flex scam-era system is flawed, but we believe that knowingly allowing 1306 individuals to receive questionable citations could be considered fraud. If a city official, ranking officer, or hearing officer knew of the problem and did nothing to make sure that people who were slapped with fines in error received their money back, then we'd say that constitutes a conspiracy to defraud. We're no attorney here but doesn't that constitute a violation of the Racketeer Influenced and corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act? We're quite sure that it could become the basis for a class action lawsuit since we understand that there's one (yes another one) in the works.
One thing is sure - like Thursday's turkey we're all getting plucked. The only question is whether or not some city officials (mayor, chief, etc.) end up with their gooses cooked.