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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.

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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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Armed robbery goes equal opportunity: Women latest suspects in Tucson-area bank thefts

Burn those bras and shred those aprons – women continue to enter fields where mainly men have only tread before, right here in good ole Pima County.

Bank of the West robbery suspect July 21/submitted photo

If heading companies, kicking butt in tennis and running for Vice President is not enough, women have now entered yet another field traditionally dominated by males:

Armed robbery.

Two recent, unrelated Tucson-area bank robberies were both pulled off by women, according to news releases from the Pima County Sheriff’s Department.

We’ve come a long way, baby.

The first went down around 3 p.m. on July 21, when a woman, aged 60 to 70, walked into the Bank of the West, 3041 S. Kinney Road. Rather than a withdrawal slip, the gal pulled out a gun and demanded money from the teller.

The woman, described as white and about 5-feet, 6-inches tall, then took off in a white, early 2000s Hyundai Tiburon 2-door coupe with a spoiler and dark tinted windows.

Bank of America robbery suspect July 23/submitted photo

The second robbery was around 2 p.m. on July 23 when another female, between the ages of 20 and 25, hit a Bank of America at 7130 N. Oracle Road.

She, too, forwent the withdrawal slip and instead handed the teller a note demanding money, noting she had a gun, although she never presented the weapon.

This gal is described as white or Hispanic, aged 20 to 25 and between 5-feet 2-inches and 5-feet 4-inches tall. She fled in a red sedan that resembled a Mazda 3.

Photos show her coyly covering her face with what could be a dainty doily – or a dirty diaper. At least she’s keeping her womanly charms.

Neither suspect had a man present, not even driving the get-away car. Maybe any boyfriend or hubby was home doing the dishes.

Out of the roughly 175,000 people arrested nationwide for criminal behavior in 2008, about 152,000 of them were men, leaving only 23,000 as women, according to the Federal Justice Statistics Resource Center.

Sorry, ladies, we still have miles to go if we really want to catch up in the criminal field.

While we jest about armed robbery becoming EOE, it’s not really funny. When women aspire to get into fields traditionally dominated by men, we’re usually thinking more like CEO or officers of the law – not people who defy it.

Guys can keep their lives of crime. Heck, they can even keep roles like garbage man and sewer worker if they want them.

Rather than illustrating the strength of modern women, perhaps female armed robbers instead exhibit the desperation of the current economy – for either gender.

The Pima County Sheriff’s Department is looking for leads, additional details and two women who fit the descriptions buying copious amounts of shoes using crisp, clean bills.

PCSD urges anyone with information regarding the bank robberies or possible identities of the suspects to contact Det. Burns at 351-4592, 247-4050 or 88-CRIME.

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What do you think?

What other fields would you like to see more women enter?

Women – What fields would you rather never enter?

Guys – What fields are you sick of dominating?

NOTE: PCSD sent a third news release on another recent bank robbery, but it was a traditional man suspect. CLICK HERE to read it in Hot Off the Press (Release) section.

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Top five cowardly crimes include purse snatching, puppy abuse

A guy running down the street with a big purple handbag is not our usual idea of a macho man.

He becomes even more of a sissy when we learn he stole the handbag from a Tucson woman after knocking her down and wrenching it from her shoulder May 24.

Mario N. Rieke/TPD photo
Mario N. Rieke/TPD photo

The 50-year-old victim was running after the thief when a cop spotted the action near Stone Avenue and Fort Lowell Road.

Mario N. Rieke, 21, was arrested in connection with the crime. The woman got her purse and money back. But we still think the snatcher owes her a new handbag since he did rip the strap.

Purse snatching is definitely near the top on the list of most cowardly crimes.

The macho crime of purse snatching pits the “big bad robber” against the proverbial “little old lady.” No, we’re not saying this particular victim was old. But she was caught unawares and at a major disadvantage.

Not only is the snatcher often preying on someone who is usually smaller and weaker than himself, but he also often ends up, as we saw, running around town with a purple handbag.

Doesn’t get much more macho than that.

Fake jail file photo/Ryn Gargulinski
Fake jail file photo/Ryn Gargulinski

We wonder how purse snatchers fare in jail. And we wonder if they admit what they are in for.

Tucson police report 84 macho purse snatchings in 2009.

Arson is another crime that involves a quick, illegal act and then running away as fast as the coward can. Torching an inanimate object and is not going to win any valor awards.

Tucson police’s total of fiery cowards last year was 215.

Animal cruelty is a coward’s haven. Abusing man’s best friend, a woman’s best cat or a child’s puppy takes a special kind of sissy.

These folks aren’t even man enough to pick on a human victim, whom at least has a chance in heck of defending itself with some type of weapon – like a gun.

Tucson animal cruelty stats were not readily available, but Pet-Abuse.com did list 26 cases in Arizona since the beginning of 2009.

One case is a guy in Chino Valley accused of sexually molesting of a 6-month-old puppy. This case definitely veers from the cowardly and into the just plain sick.

Child abuse again gives us innocent victims. To make it even worse, the victims are often in the care of the very person who ends up abusing them.

Child abusers take the crime even lower when the abuse happens to be molestation or sexual in nature. Child molesting is also the lowest crime on the prison totem pole, with other inmates often shunning the child molester – or worse.

Tucson police stats for 2009 include 319 cases of child molestation and 292 physical assaults in the offenses against family and children categories.

One more cowardly crime even sounds cowardly: hit and run. As evidenced by purse snatching and arson, any crime where the criminal runs away is definitely for sissies.

Sure, the driver can always claim he had no idea he had hit or run over a person – but we heard even a little rabbit can make a mighty bump.

Tucson police stats say 80 hit and runs involving pedestrians went down last year, one of them fatal.

Sure, the driver may have gotten away with it per se because he or she isn’t rotting in jail.

But we wonder how the person goes to sleep at night.

[tnipoll]

Ryn Gargulinski is a poet, artist, performer and TucsonCitizen.com Ryngmaster who has never had her purse snatched but once had her wallet stolen. Her column appears every Friday on Rynski’s Blogski. Her art, writing and more is at RynRules.com and Rynski.Etsy.com. E-mail rynski@tucsoncitizen.com.

logoWhat do you think?

Have you ever been victim of a cowardly crime?

Have you ever fought back and given the cowardly criminal a black eye?

What’s the most cowardly crime you can think of?

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Welfare as a way of life

Welfare used to be a nasty word. Some folks were ashamed to apply for it, much less admit they were receiving it. But now, for many, it has become a way of life.

Photo Ryn Gargulinski
Photo Ryn Gargulinski

And why not. If someone handed you money every month to sit on your couch and watch soap operas, would you bother to go look for a job?

Neither would 60 percent of Arizona welfare families who have at least one adult in the house who is able to work, according to a news release from a Goldwater Institute. And those stats are from 2007.

Not only is that adult able to work, but he or she is supposed to be out finding work, as per the welfare-to-work reforms Congress passed in 1996.

These reforms dictated that states must try to get people off their couches and into job training or at least a part-time job.

Yes, we know. Now is not the greatest time to get a job. But folks have a better chance of nabbing one if they at least go through the motions.

The welfare-to-work program had great success in its first nine years – reducing welfare recipients from 4.4 million to 1.7 million across the nation. Arizona even cut its welfare rolls by 50 percent.

“But once the state reduced its welfare enrollment by half,” the release said, “the federal government no longer held Arizona accountable for additional progress.”

Please pass the remote. Days of Our Lives is starting.

We need to start a fire beneath the recipients, give them a little motivation to get off the couch.

Just as some folks busted for DUI have had a breathalizer attached to their ignitions, welfare recipients should have a block on their TV sets. Unless they can enter the secret code they receive after spending a reasonable amount of time (i.e. more than 30 minutes) each week in training or trying to get a job, their boob tube won’t function.

Now the only boobs are the tax payers who merrily fund all this television viewing.

Using that same secret code should also be the only way they can pick up their welfare checks.

Other ideal solutions come from The Heritage Foundation’s Katherine K. Bradley:

· Set higher targets for getting welfare recipients into jobs or training. Hold staff at Department of Economic Security accountable for reaching those benchmarks.
· Require able-bodied recipients to immediately begin a four-week job search program. Recipients should report daily to a training site and log at least 30 hours a week of job search and training activity.
· Deny an entire welfare check the first time someone fails to report for work or job training.
· Require all parents of children receiving welfare payments to work. Illegal immigrants aren’t eligible for TANF checks, but their U.S.-born children are. U.S. citizens and immigrants alike should be required to work to support their children.
· Rely on private employers and community groups to manage work training and job placement.

The Heritage Foundation also points out some simple math: as more and more people depend on welfare, fewer and fewer are paying taxes to fund government programs.

“Despite the famed 1996 Welfare Reform Act and the more recent welfare adjustments in 2006, 60.8 million Americans remain dependent on the government for their daily housing, food, and health care,” the Heritage Foundation said. The latest prediction on Social Security gives us less than six years to fix this mess:

Starting in 2016, Social Security will not collect enough in taxes to pay all of the promised benefits – which is a problem for all workers, but especially for the roughly half of the American workforce that has no other retirement program.”

Call it a cynical view, but perhaps some welfare recipients not only see welfare as a way of life, but as a badge of honor: “Just look at what I can get away with.”

When does Bold and the Beautiful go on?

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wb-logolil

What do you think?

Do you agree with the solutions put forth? Can you think of others?

Have you ever been on welfare? Are you still on welfare?

Do you know anyone on welfare who should be out looking for work?

Do you know anyone who is honestly trying to get off welfare?

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Twisted ways to save money

Money stinks. But that’s usually because we never have enough of it.scoundrel

Rather than running out to hold up the nearest liquor store, we can take some creative – albeit sick and twisted – money saving tips from Tucsonan Phil Villarreal.

Although Villarreal does rake in a regular paycheck with his gig with the Arizona Daily Star, that doesn’t stop him from amassing miserly ways to pinch pennies.

His book Secrets of a Stingy Scoundrel: 100 Dirty Little Money-Grubbing Secrets, outlines ways to save cash on everything from movies to pet care.

A full day of flicks can be yours, he reminds us, with that joyful journey of theater hopping. Just pay for a single ticket for a matinee and spend the rest of the afternoon and evening enjoying everything that’s showing.

You can also bulk up your at home DVD collection – or make instant profit – by joining one of those Columbia-like DVD clubs, then sell all the 10 for a penny ones on eBay.

To even better the venture, he says, have the DVDs delivered to a vacant house, steal the delivery when it arrives, then call the club to say you never got them. Often you’ll get an extra batch at no charge, just itching to be sold.

“Exposure to such frauds is the price these companies pay when they’re too cheap to spring for delivery confirmation service,” Villarreal writes.

Vet care can be a massive expense, but good ole Phil tells us how to get the major work done for free. Say your pet is injured and needs surgery. Instead of running to the vet, run to the pound, he says. Drop off Fido, let the pound doctor fix him up, then re-adopt the doggie when he’s good and healed.

Make sure you pick a no-kill shelter, of course.

We can also save on our own health care. Just pretend not to speak English, Villarreal says.

“Leaning to say the words ‘No aspeaka’ in particular situations is the key to hacking hundreds off your yearly expenses and possibly thousands if you’re unfortunate enough to suffer a major medical emergency.”

Villarreal also offers way to save on our food bills. “Just as it makes no sense to buy Evian or get a satellite radio subscription, it’s nonsensical to buy things attainable in perfectly good, mini plastic squeeze packs at fast-food joints.”

This, of course, includes ketchup, mustard, mayo, relish, salsa and Arby’s sauce.

Save on milk by reusing it. Rather than slurping up what’s left after you finish a bowl of cereal, pour the cereal milk back into the container, a practice Villarreal discovered in college.

“By the time I was tapping the final drops out of the carton, the liquid was approximately 90 percent sugar-based and oh-so-tasty.”

Another money-saving food tip he learned in college was the weight-loss power meal. “Take a can of tuna, add a few squirts of steak sauce, slap the result in between two slices of bread and you’ve got a culinary masterwork that will satisfy your hunger and cause the flab to slip off your belly.”

Even Villarreal said he was hesitant about this one at first, but he soon learned it was a fitting dinner to compliment his breakfast of cereal and recycled milk.

Now we just need coffee and dessert – which we can also obtain through Villarreal’s stingy tricks.

“Coffee shops are like pudgy single women in their late twenties and thirties, or guys of any age or any weight for that matter – they are so desperate for attention that they are willing to give a lot of stuff away for free.”

Free cake samples, free Wi-Fi, free newspapers and magazines for reading or ripping off, free cushy chairs and maybe even a free coffee or two if you become a regular – like when you set up your home office there.

Pick a small, local shop, Villarreal advises, and don’t worry about getting kicked out as the “owners are paranoid that you’ll stop hanging out at their place at the first sign of discomfort and make for the nearest Starbucks.”

These creative money saving tips make robbing a liquor store seem so, well, pedestrian. Just make sure to pile up a stash of cash you can use for bail if the need arises.

To learn more about Stingy Scoundrel: 100 Dirty Little Money-Grubbing Secrets click HERE.

To get more traditional New Year’s budgeting advice, check out the commentary from Senior Vice President of M&I Bank Lisa George by clicking HERE.

[tnipoll]

Ryn Gargulinski is a poet, artist, performer and TucsonCitizen.com Ryngmaster who has never robbed a liquor store or recycled milk. She is, however, very cheap with paper towels. Her column appears every Friday on Rynski’s Blogski. Her art, writing and more is at RynRules.com. E-mail rynski@tucsoncitizen.com.

logoWhat do you think?

Have you tried any of these money saving tricks?

What are some other twisted ways you’ve managed to save money?

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