Wednesday May 19, 2021
At what point does a democracy become a kleptocracy? That type of degeneration routinely happens in Third World regimes but the same blight can occur in the United States. Few things epitomize “governing as looting” like the automated traffic ticket cameras that hundreds of local governments have inflicted on drivers across the nation.
In 2015, the Missouri Supreme Court struck down St. Louis’s red light camera ticket regime for violating the US Constitution because drivers were forced to prove they were innocent. But elsewhere, mayors and bureaucrats have not permitted constitutional rights to impede their fervent pursuit of revenue.
Some of the most brazen abuses occur in the District of Columbia, which issues almost a million speed camera tickets each year. The American Automobile Association (AAA) denounced one D.C. speed camera near the Maryland border as “an old-fashioned, money-making, motorist rip-off speed trap right out of the ‘Dukes of Hazzard.” A single camera in D.C. generated more than a hundred thousand tickets and $11 million in fines.
The combinations of speed cameras and shameless bureaucrats can cast citizens into a Kafkaesque hell. Last November 2, Doug Nelson, a 73-year-old Postal Service employee and Vietnam veteran, was carjacked as he returned home from a late shift. Nelson quickly surrendered his vehicle to the pistol-wielding assailants. He filed a police report and his car was eventually recovered but the license plates were stolen by the thieves.