Win for Privacy in Arizona; Randal Archibold Oddly Underwhelmed
Randal Archibold deserves credit for covering this story about Arizona dismantling its unpopular highway speed cameras: "First State to Adopt Photo Enforcement of Speed Laws, Arizona Halts the Program." But Archibold's concern for privacy rights comes off as underwhelming and distrustful of "conservatives," compared to the tone of the many articles he has penned on how frightened illegal immigrants and other unlabeled liberals are of Arizona's immigration enforcement law.
At the first tick of the clock Friday, an array of automated cameras on Arizona freeways aimed at catching speeders were to stop clicking.
There is no glitch. The state, the first to adopt such cameras on its highways in October 2008, has become the first to pull the plug, bowing to the wishes of a vocal band of conservative activists who complained that photo enforcement intruded on privacy and was mainly designed to raise money.
It was a tumultuous, impassioned run here. A man wearing a monkey mask racked up dozens of tickets, fighting them in court, to protest the system. Vandals at different times attacked the cameras with Silly String and a pickax.
More seriously, the operator of a van carrying a mobile speed camera was shot to death on the side of a freeway in April 2009. The suspect is being prosecuted on first-degree murder charges and the family of the victim has announced a lawsuit against the Department of Public Safety.
If Archibold is hinting at a connection between the murder and the protests, the shooter, Thomas Destories, has not thus far given a motive, and appears to suffer his share of mental problems. (By contrast, an April 24 story by Archibold didn't even mention violence and arrests at a rally protesting Arizona's immigration enforcement.)
Some of the loudest critics were conservatives, who organized protest groups and prodded legislators to impose restrictions on their use, arguing the cameras amounted to, as one put it, the "government spying on its citizens."
"It is unconstitutional," said Shawn Dow, founder of Arizona Citizens Against Photo Radar, who also questioned the safety benefit and the propriety of having Redflex, whose parent company is based in Australia, involved in issuing tickets to Americans.
The Department of Public Safety had reported a 19 percent drop in fatal collisions in the first nine months the cameras were in use, but after Ms. Brewer took office and named a new director of the department, no further data was released.
Archibold concluded with self-serving words from the speed camera company Redflex, warning that "speeds will spike to dangerous levels" without their cameras.