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Traffic camera scam: Fake support of photo enforcement red light and speed cameras

We hate to say it, but you can’t believe everything you read on the Internet – especially when it comes to comments supporting traffic photo enforcement cameras.

Fewer people dig traffic cameras than we may think/Thinkstock image

Although the red light and speed cameras are despised for a number of reasons, with one of the best likening them to crack cocaine and cities getting addicted to the money they bring in, batches of comments always seem to crop up in support of them.

These supportive comments, seemingly written by real-life citizens with real-life concerns, pop up like buffelgrass on traffic camera articles throughout cyberspace.

Love them or hate them red light cameras work and the more they are debated the more people are aware of them. They should be at every intersection.

“Jane Smith,” who may or may not be related to John Doe, left that particular comment on the TucsonCitizen.com article entitled “Two more photo enforcement cameras mean two more Tucson traffic nightmares.”

Her exact belief is shared so exactly by others that they just happen to use her exact wording in their own comments supporting the cameras.

Love them or hate them red light cameras work and the more they are debated the more people are aware of them. They should be at every intersection.

The same comment also appears on traffic camera articles at:

SunSentinel.com in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., comment from “dq1153” (which is part of Jane Smith’s e-mail address, by the way)

WHEC.com in Rochester, NY, comment from “giggley”

SignOnSanDiego.com, comment from giggley

LynnwoodToday.com in Lynnwood, Wash., there goes giggley again

A commenter called “yogilives,” has been as busy as giggley leaving supportive comments about the cameras around cyberspace.

Yogilives’ comment on the Citizen article reads:

What a bunch of baloney, somehow drivers being overly cautious about going through an intersection is more dangerous than some reckless driver blowing through a red light into traffic? I think not. Enforcing our traffic laws deters reckless driving and the more coverage the more deterrence. No number of street cops can match the 24/7 coverage red light cameras provide so let’s use them, the life they save might be your own!

Yogilives’ comment at HuffingtonPost.com, on the article “LA’s Arizona Boycott Makes Exception For Red-Light Camera Operator,” reads:

That anyone would be surprised that LA officials hadn’t thought through the implications of their boneheaded political grandstanding is ridiculous. How exactly would the endangering the lives of Californian’s by refusing to properly and fully enforce our traffic laws benefit ANYONE, Arizonans, Californians Mexicans or Martians? Stay in your lane people, you’re barely qualified to represent the people of LA, let’s not have you muddle things up by getting into Arizona’s business.

In an attempt to perhaps keep spam suspicions at bay, yogilives throws in some local references, colloquial language and even personal details. In one of 18 comments left on sites affiliated with OregonLive.com, yogilives claims to be the father of two school age girls who, of course, will be kept safe for the rest of their lives if only more photo enforcement cameras would be installed at every single intersection across the nation.

What is this, a conspiracy?

You bet – or at least a movement known as “Astroturf lobbying,” which creates “fake grass roots” campaigns full of phony supporters with an ulterior motive in mind.

Money. Money. Money.

While the traffic camera comments may seem silly at best and annoying at worst, they sometimes morph into larger concerns in areas where traffic cameras are still up for discussion – and persuasion.

A November ballot initiative in Mukilteo, Wash., will let voters weigh in on its local traffic camera issues, a Washington State Wire article says.

The initiative lets folks decide if the city should reverse the City Council’s decision to install traffic cameras around town, have public votes on future traffic camera installations, and limit traffic camera fines to $20.

There goes the money, money, money.

A loud, yet mysterious organization, called the Mukilteo Citizens for Simple Government, filed a lawsuit to keep the initiative off the ballot.

“Backers of the initiative say it sure looks like the Arizona company that supplies the town with traffic cameras is behind the whole thing,” the article noted.

In making the charge, the red-light opponents have put Google to work, uncovering a motherlode of websites tailored for every city where a red-light camera initiative has made the ballot, or where automated cameras have come in for serious public scrutiny. In Mukilteo and 17 other cities, each website appears to be sponsored by a citizens’ group; each one uses identical wording on its content pages; each web domain name is owned by the same company, Advarion, Inc., of Houston, TX.

In other states, campaign disclosure documents reveal that Advarion is one of the contractors providing services to pro-camera campaigns financed by American Traffic Solutions of Scottsdale, Ariz. And the main reason these facts must be mentioned in such a roundabout way is that Mukilteo Citizens for Simple Government still hasn’t gotten around to filing campaign disclosure documents with the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission, which presumably would make its backing clear.

Love them or hate them, scammers and spammers are everywhere.

[tnipoll]

Thanks to reader Sam Jennings, who sent me an e-mail noting,”I found it hard to believe that many people LOVE these cameras so I dug a bit, and that’s what I find happening everywhere. I feel people should know it’s not genuine.”

What do you think?

Have you fallen for any Internet scams?

Would you admit it if you did?

Do you think Jane Smith, yogilives or giggley will comment on this article?

Do you think traffic cameras should be at every intersection?

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