Speed Cameras

The Illinois Comptroller Will Cease Collecting Red Light Camera Fines Amid Corruption Scandal

"As a matter of public policy, this system is clearly broken," says Comptroller Susana A. Mendoza.


The Illinois Comptroller's office will no longer help cities collect fines from red light cameras due to a pay-for-play investigation involving contractor SafeSpeed.

In 2017, ABC7 and the Chicago Sun-Times discovered that most of the drivers cited for running the light were actually making right turns, some even doing so after making a complete stop. In 2019, ABC 7 also found that the Chicago intersections that racked up the most fines had shorter timed lights, giving drivers less time to pass through legally. The investigation identified one intersection where the green and yellow lights were only up for a combined 20 seconds.

"As a matter of public policy, this system is clearly broken. I am exercising the moral authority to prevent state resources being used to assist a shady process that victimizes taxpayers," Comptroller Susana A. Mendoza announced in a press release.

The final straw, the press release indicated, was a federal investigation into red light contractor SafeSpeed.

Both the Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune have reported on SafeSpeed's chumminess with local officials, including connections to a county commissioner's chief of staff as well as a former police chief; the latter was fired from his job in the police department after his relationship with the company came to light. These local officials worked as consultants to negotiate SafeSpeed's presence in various communities. At least one of the officials went on record saying that he received a kickback for every fine paid in certain communities.

When SafeSpeed sought to install red light cameras in Oakbrook Terrace, against the wishes of state bureaucrats, the decision was largely supported by state Sen. Martin Sandoval (D–District 11), whose campaign received large donations from SafeSpeed. Sandoval's relationship with SafeSpeed was just one of the questionable connections that triggered an FBI raid into his residence and office. (Sandoval announced his resignation in November amid the corruption scandal.)

"This kind of arrangement stinks—it's plain rotten," Mendoza added of the scandal. "It exploits taxpayers and especially those who struggle to pay the fines imposed, often the working poor and communities of color. We can't continue the practice of municipal employees directly pocketing cash from contracts they arrange."

In addition to concerns about corruption, studies all across the country have found that their local red light cameras have made little positive impact on safe driving practices. In 2014, Reason reported that Chicago's red light cameras may have traded in one traffic accident for another: While the rate of right-angle crashes causing injury at intersections decreased by 15 percent (much lower than the city's touted 47 percent), rear-end collisions causing injury rose by 22 percent. Additionally, 40 percent of the cameras were placed in intersections with low rates of injury-causing collisions.

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  1. Corruption? In Illinois? Crazy.

    1. This is not new. Chicago, especially under Richard and Ricky Daley were fountains of corruption. I wouldn’t live in Chicago on a bet.

    2. I worked in the Capitol in Springfield on committees and saw blatant corruption all the time. Lobbyists would openly negotiate “gifts” for the reps and then testify on the bill which would then invariably pass. The only mystery would be which rep other than the chairman got the premium bribes.

  2. Sadly, I was caught by one in Oakbrook Terrace. But I was also smart enough to not pay. They can fuck off. This makes me feel a lot better about my decision.

    The cameras are such bullshit. There was no accident, there were multiple cars going through the intersection, and a gigantic intersection at that. I hope there were many more that chose not to pay.

    1. Same here I just didn’t pay it. Got a bill, not a ticket and not from the city. Called the court and they said no citation issued. It was one of these contractors. They bugged me with phone calls and notices for 3 years at least.

  3. My wife ran one of these so I decided to play the game and contest. The ticket came in my name. The hearing was one of the biggest shams I’d ever experienced. It was “due process theater.” When the “prosecutions” evidence turned out to be lacking and I asked about it, they asked me if I’d like to call a witness to support their case. Because I said that was absurd, they determined that I was liable.

    Of course, perhaps it was I who was contesting in bad faith, as I had no intention to pay. In Illinois, they’re not allowed to report it to the secretary of state unless you’ve got 5 of them unpaid. The city in question sent it over to some collection firm in Ohio, who has called me a few times. I’ve offered to settle at 10% of the fine amount (not because they have any real leverage, but because it’s how much I’m willing to pay to have them stop calling me), and they inform me that they don’t have authority to settle. I ask them to get settlement authority, send the summons and complaint, or stop calling me. They’ve stopped calling me.

    This was always a naked money grab. I’m very glad my city did not elect to use them.

    1. Naked Money Grab – good name for a fake band. Sell concert tickets, use the receipts to vacation in Fiji on the event date.

    2. I had 3 I didn’t pay, they withheld it from my state income tax refund.

      I wonder if they will be rebating those in light of this new policy

      1. Not likely.

    3. You were not sharp enough to play their game properly.

      WHen the judge called you up, go on up. then ask the judge to examine the photogrpahic “evidence”. When he does, and sees an obviously female person in the driver’s seat, ask him if he’s certain he can produce a witness to identify YOU as the one in the left front seat AT THE TIME of the photograph .When he demands YOU identify the female driver, tell him politely but firmly “no, sir, that is the job of the STATE. Not mine.” Make sure your wife did not accompany you to the court.

      He will have NO OPTION but to bang that gavel and snarl “case dismissed with prejudice. You are free to go.”

      1. Incorrect. The hearing is with the municipality. There is no judge who sits. Instead the city attorney acts as the “impartial” arbitrator of the “Civil infraction.”

        What you’re saying is true under all criminal law, but the way this law is written, it is not a criminal proceeding. It is also not a civil proceeding, therefore they basically get to make up all of their own rules of evidence. The law provides only four defenses against the ticket for the owner of the vehicle, not being the person to commit the infraction is not one of them. It’s bizarre because the ticket is written for something the “property” was doing. The photographic (video) evidence of the infraction is shown at the hearing. It is illegal under the law to photograph the driver. Therefore the city didn’t even have evidence that my wife was driving, much less me. If they asked me who was driving, I would have replied it is not my job to do their criminal investigations for them. I simply had the benefit of being able to say truthfully under oath that I was not the one who did it. In some bizarre fashion this law seems to be prosecuted in rem but enforced in personam as in rather than placing a lien against the title of the vehicle, they fine the individual named on the title. I’m a layperson, so I may be using the terms wrong, but the end result is long after the vehicle is sold, the fine remains in my name.

        So after they presented their evidence (and they insisted that I, the accused present my case first. I said that was absurd.) I informed them that they had not provided any evidence that I was the operator of the vehicle. I also requested that it be dismissed because they had failed to provide evidence that proper signage was posted in accordance with the law (They hadn’t provided any), and therefore they hadn’t fulfilled the statutory requirement. The attorney informed me that the sign was there because he passed it regularly on the way to work. I asked him if he represents the city or if he is the “impartial arbitrator.” He rolled his eyes and asked if I wanted to call a witness from the city to testify on the status of the sign. I asked why on earth would I want to call an adverse witness.

        At this point I was relatively satisfied with the amount of time I had wasted, and decided it was time to move on. I could have appealed at the county court and had more of the normal procedures and rules of evidence, but then I’d have to pay $75 for privilege. I was quite content to ignore it from there on out.

        1. gonna have to disagree at least in california. i got a cite when a friend was driving and my response was “not me”. the cite was voided. the scam is that they DO NOT want the things litigated…because they get their shit pushed like the topic of this story demonstrates. they are a sham and a lie

  4. the concept is a due process violation.

    1. the theory is that if half the folks pay up on demand its found money. half of the remaining half get a nasty-gram and pay up…more gravy. those of us who shitcan them are the minority. disgraceful nonsense is what those are

  5. The funny thing is that car navigation systems will alert you to the red light camera locations in Chicago.

    Thus doubling down on the disparate impact.

  6. Camera enforcement of all kinds is fundamentally corrupt. I say this as someone who has never received such a ticket. Indeed, traffic law in general trends toward corruption. As do all laws based on the “statistically, if you are doing ‘A’ you are likely to later do ‘B’ , which will actually damage property or persons” theory. In the first place, a lot of that thinking is bullshit. In the second place it leads to travesties like people getting arrested for DUI who were sitting in their car in a parking lot, not driving.

    There is entirely too much Law.

  7. You mean these cameras are not about safety? I’m shocked.

    1. SHOCKED…JUST SHOCKED! the slimeballs that promote and install those things are as crooked as a dogs back leg

  8. Out west, the laws state that one may ENTER an intersection when the yellow light shows, but NOT once the red light shows. Thus no matter how short the diration of the yellow, no violation has occurred. That short yellow is part of the sleaze of the whole scam.

  9. There is no perfect system but people in charge should pay more attention to what is going on. We never had problems on sextreffen dortmund because we pay a lot of attention

  10. corruption in illinois? slow news day?

    these cameras have been a motorist mulcting scheme in nearly every instance they have been installed.

    a few years back a friend was driving my truck and got “photo’d” running a red. the official envelope arrived and i toddled down to the local constabulary to inform them that it was clearly not me and that they needed to void the citation. the lard-ass gal behind the bulletproof glass curtly informed me that i needed to reveal who that was driving to which i replied “not me”. i could see she was going to be great fun as i told her it was not my job to investigate the work product of a robot camera and the citations it generates. well that got her massive drawers in a massive wad and she got really really extra mad when i demanded she sign the cite as voided and note the date and her employee ID on the document.

    for fun google redflex and san diego. turns out LOTS of folks got scammed and LOTS of them paid higher insurance rates, attended traffic school and paid bogus fines. bullshit!

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