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Advocate file photo of Mayor LaToya Cantrell

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell insisted the secret change in enforcement rules for city speeding cameras wasn’t meant to be a money-grabbing trap. Many who got those tickets for driving at a speed that would have been forgiven under the old rules surely beg to differ.

An analysis by The New Orleans Advocate’s Jeff Adelson shows that, if the policy shift was indeed meant to raise revenue, it was a resounding, if short-term, success.

For the first two months after the city reduced the threshold for speeding tickets, the number of citations issued and amount of money charged shot up more than enough to cover revenue losses from Cantrell’s decision to take 20 traffic cameras out of service. But once word got out that the city had reduced the ticketing threshold from 25 to 23 in 20-mile-per-hour school zones, for example, the number of tickets dropped by 28 percent.

Cantrell has claimed that the move was driven by public safety, even though she shrugged off suggestions that the city announce the change beforehand. Last week, her spokesman said that the paper’s analysis validated her decision.

“The bottom line for the mayor is: behavior changed,” Communications Director Beau Tidwell said. “The public safety goal of reducing speeding in school zones while children are present was achieved.”

That is, of course, a worthy goal. And for thousands of drivers, it was also a costly one.

Follow Stephanie Grace on Twitter, @stephgracela.