Monday, July 4, 2011
Help Me Howard: Funeral Ticketed
Red light cameras: Say those words and some people start to steam. But now, a stunning story of a funeral procession that was ticketed, and even worse, it seems clear that no one even watched the tapes before the violations were sent out. Want to see it? Take a look at this Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- It is a day many of us have been through. It is a day Pedro Dominguez will never forget.
Pedro Dominguez, Mother's Funeral Ticketed: "That day was just about reminiscing about a wonderful life with my mom and, you know, what a wonderful lady she was and how much she loved us."
On that day in May, Pedro buried his mother. Now, a month later, he is in a battle over his funeral procession.
Pedro Dominguez: "In the funeral procession on the way to the park, we got red light camera tickets from the city of Opa-Locka."
Take a look at the videos.
You can see the red light cameras flashing as the funeral procession goes through 135th Street and 27th Avenue in Opa-Locka.
You may have also noticed the three police officers the family hired, stopping traffic for the procession.
Pedro Dominguez: "You can see my mom's hearse, the limo, everybody going through the red light at the officer's advisement. He's leading us through the red light."
The limo with family members got a $158 ticket. Pedro got a $158 ticket. At least three other cars got tickets, tickets signed by an Opa-Locka police officer who left his badge number.
Pedro Dominguez: "They ticketed my mother's funeral. The words just escape me."
Pedro then filed an appeal with American Traffic Solutions, the Arizona company that runs the cameras. They denied his appeal.
Pedro Dominguez: "'The affidavit of non-responsibility did not establish an exemption and will not result in a dismissal or a transfer of the violation at this time.'"
Pedro says anyone who watches the tape can clearly see the officer in the middle of the intersection stopping traffic, the officer at the top on the right in the intersection and the police officer following the procession.
Pedro says clearly, no one watched the red light tapes.
Pedro Dominguez: "If a technician or a police officer had reviewed this, there is no way they would have sent this violation out. It's just plain as day. Obviously, it tells me from the get-go that nobody viewed these photos or video."
No one looked at the tapes, or to be fair, looked at these tapes and somehow didn't see three police officers with flashing lights around the intersection.
Pedro isn't buying that option.
Pedro Dominguez: "There is no way anybody looked at this, and that's what's upsetting."
Upsetting, but Howard, is it legal to ticket cars going through a red light if a police officer approves driving through the red light?
Howard Finkelstein, 7 News Legal Expert: "You can drive through the red light if an officer waves you through, and in fact, the law specifically mentions funeral processions being allowed through. In this case, more than one person didn't do their job."
When I spoke to American Traffic Solutions, the company that handles the red light cameras, a spokesman told me his company reviews each tape before they are forwarded to the government agency, that they did not make a mistake in this case, that the agreement with Opa-Locka requires them to forward any potential violations with an officer in the intersection to the city for review.
Opa-Locka then told me an officer is supposed to look at every ticket but that sometimes things slip through the cracks. A sergeant then looked at the tapes, told me the police officers were clearly visible on the tapes, the tickets should not have been issued and were immediately dismissed.
Howard Finkelstein: "This shows that the red light cameras are truly just a cash cow for the state and government agencies, because obviously, they are not even reviewing some videos to see if the person is innocent or guilty. If you think there is any doubt about your ticket, fight it."
Pedro is glad he fought the tickets and wonders if other people will come to the same conclusion he has.
Pedro Dominguez: "It's just sending the message to the media and local government and citizens that this red light camera is just ridiculous. Nobody reviews it. It's just about making money, and it's just ridiculous."
Patrick Fraser: "The politicians say the red light cameras are not about cash, it's about making people safer. If you go by the people who call the Help Me Howard line, the only thing it's doing is making them angrier. If you got a violation that you think proves no one is watching the videos, send it to your state legislators. They are the ones who approved the red light cameras."
Ready to stop a problem bothering you? Give us the green light to help you. We will put you on camera, and a lot of people will watch it.