The Investigators uncover flaw with school zone cameras

Issue with camera went unchecked by at least three people

The Investigators uncover flaw with school zone cameras

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A school zone camera erroneously issued speeding tickets to at least two drivers, and three people who reviewed those tickets didn’t catch the mistakes.

Bryan Robinson drives his young son to and from school every day. Recently, his morning commute led to a $50 speeding ticket.

The ticket was issued after Robinson’s car was captured on a school zone camera near Cornerstone/Lester Prep.

According to the ticket, the camera clocked him going 10 miles over the speed limit on Tillman Street.

“I was like the citation’s not exactly correct in a couple different ways,” Robinson told the WMC Action News 5 Investigators. “The speed of the school zone was wrong as well as the time.”

Thousands of tickets issued by speed cameras, like Robinson’s, are in the process of being voided after a group of Memphis judges said the tickets can’t be enforced under the current red-light ordinance.

Memphis City Council said it would modify the ordinance to include these speed cameras.

The cameras are part of the City’s Speed Safety Program. Fifteen cameras were installed in school zones and at S-curves around Memphis last year.

Speed Safety Program

Warnings were issued starting mid-November, and tickets were sent out starting Jan. 20.

The cameras are only active 30 minutes prior to school opening and 15 minutes after it has opened. The cameras activate again 15 minutes prior to school closing until 30 minutes after it has closed.

However, the Investigators discovered that Robinson’s ticket never should have been issued in the first place.

On Robinson’s ticket, it said the camera captured him traveling 25 miles per hour in a 15 mile per hour zone.

However, the posted speed limit is 20 mph.

Robinson’s ticket was issued at 7:45 a.m., 30 minutes after the camera was supposed to be deactivated. School starts at Cornerstone at 7 a.m.

Robinson also said he didn’t see any flashing yellow lights to warn him that the school zone speed was in effect.

The Investigators confirmed this when we went to the site at 7:45 a.m.

In a statement, the City of Memphis wrote: “Thank you for reaching out to the City and letting us know about the problem with the speed camera on Tillman. When this issue was brought to our attention, our engineering team worked with the vendor immediately, and our understanding is the speed camera is now working properly.”

But Robinson showed us that on his ticket, a Memphis police officer signed off affirming the ticket was correct. The officer wasn’t alone.

According to Conduent, the company who installed the cameras, “Each set of violation data is reviewed twice (by two reviewers) prior to being sent to a police officer for approval.”

That means three people reviewed the camera’s data and no one caught the issue.

“The only information that he or she has is baked into those photos and what’s reported by that system. So the human verification process is pretty much invalid, so why even have the human involved in it at that point?" asked Robinson.

We asked the City how it can ensure the information it has is correct when issuing the speed tickets in the future. The question went unanswered.

We also asked if other cameras were being checked for errors but we didn’t receive an answer for that either.

It is unclear when the new ordinance will be in effect and when tickets will be valid once again.

WMC obtained this data from the Shelby County Court Clerk. It shows notices between Nov. 19, 2019 and Feb. 19, 2020.

Shelby County Speed Camera and S-Curve Notices from Nov. 19, 2019 to Feb. 19, 2020.
Shelby County Speed Camera and S-Curve Notices from Nov. 19, 2019 to Feb. 19, 2020. (Source: WMC)

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