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Author Topic: Italian Speed Cameras, It couldn't be happening here could it?  (Read 887 times)
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fay66
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« on: 07 August, 2009, 04:27:58 PM »

 Three short related articles to speed cameras in Italy.


Italian Authorities Conduct Third Speed Camera Raid
Local officials and speed camera contractors in Caserta, Italy under investigation for fraud.


Motorists who passed by speed cameras and red light cameras yesterday in the province of Caserta, Italy were greeted by the sight of the devices shrouded in black plastic trash bags. They were not vandalized. The carabinieri -- a national police force -- affixed official warning notices explaining that the cameras were in "protective custody under Article 321." An investigation is underway into possible fraudulent conduct on the part of local officials in thirty-three municipalities as well as fourteen private companies who operated the equipment under contract.

In addition to seizing camera equipment, documents were taken from the offices of both photo enforcement companies and local police chiefs and mayors. The raids were directed by the public prosecutor in Santa Maria Capua Vetere. Investigators are looking at a number of issues including the failure of municipalities to properly record the amount of fines in budget documents, the use of unlawful contract arrangements with private companies and the irregular handling of sensitive personal information. The cameras have been a source of public complaint in the area as they are most frequently used in hidden locations and on curves in the road  (SOUNDS LIKE BRUNSTROM & NORTH WALES!), contrary to official policies. As many as 200 individuals face charges that include perjury by a public official, abuse of office and fraud.

This is the third major investigation into photo enforcement fraud so far this year. In June, the Guardia di Finanza raided a speed camera maker in Brescia over the issue of cloned serial numbers. In January, the carabinieri arrested red light camera maker Stefano Arrighetti and seized automated ticketing machines from 54 municipalities that used the "T-Red" brand of intersection camera on charges of contract irregularities and the shortening of yellow light timing at intersections.

The consumer watchdog group Codacons insisted that motorists be provided with full refunds.

"Money that was taken through fraud using speed cameras discovered to be rigged in Caserta must be returned -- with interest, of course -- to the people affected by high penalties and illegal equipment," Codacons President Carlo Rienzi said in a statement. "If this is not done automatically, necessary legal action must be taken against municipalities that are found guilty."

Rienzi also called for the investigation to be extended to cover every city in Italy that uses photo enforcement.

"The story clearly demonstrates how municipalities are using illicit tools and violating the law to make cash," Rienzi said.


Italy: Police Raid Speed Camera Company Caught in Fraud Scandal
Italian police find 81,555 speed camera tickets worth $16 million were fraudulently issued.


Italian police yesterday raided the Brescia headquarters of a speed camera manufacturer accused of fraud involving seventy municipalities throughout the country. Officers from the Guardia di Finanza, the law enforcement arm of the Ministry of Economy and Finance, seized computers, machine components and fifty speed cameras as evidence.

Salerno prosecutor Amato Barile ordered the raid after discovering evidence that  Velomatic 512 photo radar units bearing the same individual serial number were being used by different municipalities located hundreds of miles apart. Under Italian regulations, each camera used for issuing citations must be properly calibrated and approved. By cloning serial numbers, the company avoided testing requirements. Prosecutors also believe that some of these cameras were calibrated in such a way that motorists adhering to the speed limit would receive citations.
As a result of a criminal conspiracy, 81,555 tickets worth 11.3 million euros (US $16 million) fraudulently issued between 2007 and 2009 have been canceled, refunds will be given and license points will be removed. The consumer watchdog group Codacons wants permanent changes in the law, including banning the ability of municipal governments to pad general funds with photo ticket revenue and a minimum five-second yellow warning time at intersections. In January, the makers of the T-Red brand of red light cameras were similarly arrested for fraud after prosecutors found motorists were being trapped at intersections with short yellows and improperly certified equipment.

"That yet another seizure has happened on the national territory demonstrates how municipalities are using illicit means and violating the law in order to make cash," a Codacons press release stated.

Yesterday's raid was given the code name "Operation Devius." The investigation is ongoing.




1/30/2009
Italy: Red Light Camera Makers Arrested for Fraud
Red light cameras shut down across Italy in massive fraud scandal involving 109 public officials and contractors.


Red light cameras are shut down across Italy as the largest ever government investigation into the illegal use of photo enforcement expands. Carabinieri yesterday placed the inventor of the "T-Red" brand of red light camera, Stefano Arrighetti, 45, under house arrest. Another 63 municipal police commanders; 39 mayors and other public officials; and red light camera distributors including Kria, Ci.Ti.Esse, Maggioli, Traffic Technology and Open Software are under investigations. Documents and automated ticketing machines have been seized from 54 municipalities.

Motorist complaints about being trapped at camera-equipped intersections with short yellow signal durations sparked the inquiry. Verona Preliminary Investigations Judge Sandro Sperandio ordered police on January 24, 2008 to seize T-red devices in Tregnago, and the case soon spread across the country to other cities and towns under contract with photo ticketing companies.

Criminal charges of forgery and fraud are based on four basic complaints, many of which represent common practices in the United States. First, municipalities are accused of shortening yellow times to boost profit. Although not binding, Ministry of Transportation guidelines recommend a minimum yellow of 3 seconds for intersections with a posted speed of 50km/h (31 MPH), 4 seconds for 60 km/h (37 MPH) and 5 seconds for 70km/h (43 MPH). Many cameras were placed at high-speed intersections with yellow times as short as 3 seconds. In the US, photo enforcement advocates modified signal timing guidelines beginning in 1985 to promote the use of shortened yellow timing without running into legal troubles.

Second, investigators found that municipal police never reviewed the camera fines. Instead, the tickets went straight to private companies like Ci.Ti.Esse which affixed scanned electronic signatures of police officials before mailing the citations, in violation of Italian law. Camera companies in the US also affix digital signatures to citations that have often never been reviewed by police officials.

The third charge involves fraudulent type approval of the red light camera device. Arrighetti's company, Kria, is accused of having only the T-Red's camera approved by the Ministry of Transportation, not the electronic control hardware that determines who receives a ticket. The same charge has been leveled against Redflex, the Australian company that operates US red light and speed camera systems.

The fourth and most damaging charge involves contracting irregularities. A municipal police commander who helped a red light camera system go from 500,000 Euros in fines in 2005 to $1 million Euros in 2007 received a 2000 Euro (US $2580) bonus from a private company. The no-bid contracts offered to the companies that operate the systems with a per-ticket compensation of 35 percent of each fine issued, while common in the US, violate Italian contracting statutes.

Motorists who have already received fines may apply to the courts to have them canceled.

   
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