Mayor LaToya Cantrell doubled down Monday in an address to the New Orleans City Council on her decision not to inform the public of the lowering of traffic camera thresholds that would trigger a speeding ticket, saying she didn’t want to “advocate” for speeding.
On Feb. 4, the administration changed the speed that would lead to traffic tickets in 20 mph school zones from 26 mph to 24 mph — causing public outcry when thousands of people were ticketed unexpectedly.
Cantrell said she made the decision not to notify motorists of the change because she did not want to encourage them to drive just under the threshold but still over the speed limit, even though the original 26 mph cushion was well-known among residents.
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“[I] did not want to disclose that because I am not advocating for people to continue to not follow the school zone laws throughout the city of New Orleans,” she said.
In her address to the Budget Committee, Cantrell echoed earlier comments she made that she lowered the thresholds to increase public safety, citing data from traffic camera company American Traffic Solutions (ATS) that showed one in five vehicles passing through New Orleans school zones drive above the speed limit.
Prior to Feb. 4, traffic cameras only ticketed about a fourth of those drivers, the ones traveling above 26 mph.
Councilman Jared Brossett, who chairs the Budget Committee, said he agreed with the goal of increasing public safety, but thought the public should have been notified of the changes.
“Transparency is the utmost top priority,” Brossett said. “If it would have been announced, drivers could have changed their driving patterns, which should have been the goal.”
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But Cantrell said that due to the nature of some policies relating to law enforcement, she would not inform the public of every policy she implements. “There will be some decisions that I will not disclose,” Cantrell responded. “For example, where we’re going to have DWI stops throughout the city.”
Councilwoman Helena Moreno said she also thought drivers should have been given some form of notice that the traffic cameras were going to be recalibrated. “You don’t even have to necessarily say at what speed but that they’re going to catch you at a lower speed,” she said.
Cantrell campaigned on removing traffic cameras in the city. Since taking office, she has removed 21 cameras and shortened the length of cameras operating in school zones to four hours from 24 hours.
Following these changes, she decided to crack down on the thousands of residents speeding in school zones daily. “If I could have gone to zero, I would have done so,” Cantrell said.
However, the city’s attorney advised her not to lower the threshold below 24 mph to leave a legal cushion to account for camera calibration.
“What I would say to our citizens and what I made very clear in not disclosing it (is that) it is unacceptable to speed in school zones throughout the city of New Orleans,” Cantrell said.