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Red-light camera operator likely to win Arizona immigration boycott exemption

June 22, 2010 |  8:11 am
The Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday is scheduled to consider — and appears likely to approve — an exception to the city's Arizona boycott allowing a 10-month extension of a multimillion-dollar agreement with red-light camera operator American Traffic Solutions, which is based Scottsdale.

The firm operates cameras at 32 city intersections that catch tens of thousands of red light violators each year. The council's Public Safety Committee says the exception is justified because red light cameras provide a "significant benefit to public safety."

The boycott exemption request comes as a new financial analysis of Los Angeles' red light camera program has found it is costing the city about $300,000 a year.

Last month, a lopsided majority of the council and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa suspended most travel and contracting with Arizona in protest of a new state law requiring police officers to determine the immigration status of people they lawfully stop and also suspect are in the country illegally. The law encourages racial profiling and violates constitutional rights, according to Los Angeles officials, a charge Arizona's governor and other backers of the law deny.

In addition to extending the current red light camera agreement, the council is scheduled to consider asking for bids on a new contract to operate and expand the photo enforcement program to more intersections starting next year.

That action could further entangle the two issues. In addition to the current vendor, a top competitor for the new contract — Redflex Traffic Systems — also has its headquarters in Arizona.

"Industrywide, they're two front-runners," noted Matthew Crawford, a senior administrative analyst in the city's budget office.

Councilman Ed Reyes, whose district stretches from Koreatown to Lincoln Heights, has been an outspoken supporter of the boycott. But he said he would support the onetime exemption to temporarily continue the contract and prevent a sudden shutdown of the traffic enforcement program. "I would not jeopardize Angelenos," he said.

-- Rich Connell