Monday, March 17, 2008

Dallas's Red Light District

Via Instapundit, msnbc reports that Dallas is shutting down a number of their red light cameras because they aren't actually preventing people from running red lights.

Oh wait, that's not the problem; the problem is that the cameras are working:
The city said the cameras are failing to generate enough red-light-running fines to justify their costs.

Well, smack my ass and call me Stalin - it wasn't about saving the children. Well, fuck.

Dallas News elaborates:
That leaves Dallas government with a conundrum. Its red-light camera system has been an effective deterrent to motorists running red lights – some monitored intersections have experienced a more than 50 percent reduction. But decreased revenue from red light-running violations means significantly less revenue to maintain the camera program and otherwise fuel the city's general fund.

Of course, there's always this clever solution to the red-light problem: randomly shut down a few of the cameras for a while. Sure, they won't be there to catch the people who zip through busy intersections like a bat out of hell, but that's not the professed goal of red light cameras, is it? The claim was that they were necessary to make the roads safer for driver and pedestrian alike. And they've done that, evident in the Dallas News article quoted above. Now, logically, if it wasn't really the presence of red light cameras, but the threat of red light cameras that reduced running the lights, then people would be just as safe even if the cameras weren't on. If we kept the cameras operating on a random basis, joyriders wouldn't have time to adapt to which lights were safe and which were not.

It's the same effect seen with communities where concealed carry of guns is legal: criminals are convinced to ply their, err, trade with a little more discrimination, because anyone could be packing heat. Patrick Mullins wrote for Capitalism Magazine back in 2001 that:
Nondiscretionary concealed-carry permits deter crimes against persons because criminals -- fearing for their own lives -- don't know which potential victims in a right-to-carry state are armed and which are not. National polls suggest that there are as many as 3.6 million defensive uses of handguns by private citizens each year. There are no hard numbers available, because these incidents are rarely reported to the authorities and because 98% of them consist merely of brandishing the gun rather than discharging it. [John] Lott's landmark study now confirms the bountiful anecdotal evidence for deterrence.


Lott's conclusions shattered the conventional wisdom about the correlation of crime to gun ownership by responsible citizens.

"National crime rates have been falling at the same time as gun ownership has been rising. Likewise, states experiencing the greatest reductions in crime are also the ones with the fastest growing percentages of gun ownership."

"Allowing citizens to carry concealed handguns reduces violent crimes, and the reductions coincide very closely with the number of concealed-handgun permits issued. Mass shootings in public places are reduced when law-abiding citizens are allowed to carry concealed handguns."

Because someone else has chosen to equip himself with a tool for self-defense, everyone else in the community is just a little bit safer. Does it eliminate crime entirely? No, but neither do red light cameras.

But safety was never their primary concern anyway.

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