Speed cameras on freeways in Arizona to come down for good

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PHOENIX -- The photo enforcement cameras on Arizona freeways that have caused much consternation for many Valley drivers will be turned off this summer.

The Department of Public Safety sent a letter to Redflex Traffic Systems, the company that operates the cameras, ending their contract.

According to the letter sent to Redflex, "DPS wishes to be clear that its decision to not renew the contract is not a reflection of your company's services or performance of the contract, but a change in the agency's focus."

While the 78 fixed and mobile cameras placed strategically along the freeways will be shut down, speed-enforcement and red-light cameras located on city streets will continue to snap offenders.

The state program has been controversial, so much so that several of the cameras have been vandalized. But that's not the worst that has happened.

Last year, Thomas Patrick Destories allegedly shot and killed a Redflex technician as he sat inside one of the mobile photo-enforcement units. Destories, who was charged with first-degree murder, has pleaded not guilty. His trial is slated for July.

Supporters of the photo-enforcement program, including law enforcement agencies, say the cameras, which went in two years ago, have cut down significantly on crashes, saving lives.

Opponents, who are thrilled with the decision to let the contract lapse, call the cameras a distraction that actually causes wrecks. They also call the cameras a violation of people's constitutional rights, and say they are merely a way to generate revenue.

While the camera system was expected to bring in money for the state, former Gov. Janet Napolitano, who implemented the program, said that was never the primary objective. In any case, the projected $90 million never materialized. During an 18-month time span -- September 2008 through the end of March 2010 -- only about 30 percent of the 1.2 million issued citations were ever paid.

Gov. Jan Brewer, who was Secretary of State when the program was launched, was one of the critics. At one point after becoming governor, she considered letting voters make the decision about the program's future.

DPS Director Robert Halliday, who was appointed by Brewer, said the reputation of photo enforcement was damaged from the get-go.

The freeway cameras will be turned off on July 15. Plans for their removal have not yet been worked out.

DPS has not said anything about the decision to let the Redflex contact lapse other than to release the following one-sentence statement: "The project is in the process of winding down and the Department of Public Safety (DPS) has no comment."