Italy: Private Photo Enforcement Contracts Banned
Italian government bans private contractors from operating speed cameras in response to ongoing scandal.

In a desperate attempt to save lucrative photo enforcement programs in the face of widespread scandal, the Italy's Ministry of Interior on Friday announced significant reforms to the way speed cameras and red light cameras are operated in the country. The move followed explosive allegations of corruption involving over one hundred public officials and a number of executives from the photo enforcement industry. The investigation is ongoing with police forces having conducted raids and arrests earlier this month, in June and in January. Interior Minister Roberto Maroni set out the new regulations in a directive issued to local authorities.

"The primary objective is... to plan (speed) control activities so that they represent a real tool of prevention and not merely a means to raise cash," Maroni said in a statement. "Speed control is a police service that cannot be delegated to companies that rent equipment."

The new ban on allowing for-profit companies to operate automated ticketing machines represents the largest change to existing practice. In Italy and the US, photo ticketing programs have been outsourced to companies that are most often compensated on a per-citation basis. Italian investigators discovered that this incentive in several cases caused the companies to rig the equipment to boost the number of tickets issued.

The new rules also mandate periodic testing of the radar equipment, a ban on hiding cameras behind bushes and privacy protection for the data and images gathered by the cameras. At least one public interest group has said the reforms do not go far enough.

"Codacons considers the initiative of Minister Maroni insufficient to put a stop to the out-of-control speed cameras, not to mention it's redundant," the consumer rights group said in a statement. "It's a good thing to exclude private contracts and mandate that only the police manage these devices. But it's not enough."

The group contended that hiding speed cameras was already prohibited by Section 345 of the highway code. Codacons offered the following recommendations that the government could adopt if it were serious about reform. First, speed camera warning signs would only be placed in locations where cameras are actually in use. All illegal red light cameras -- ones installed in locations with short yellows -- should be removed. The highway code should be updated to require a minimum five-second yellow warning period at intersections where red light cameras are used. All proceeds from automated tickets should go to road safety education as opposed to the current system where 50 percent goes to general spending.

A copy of Maroni's order (in Italian) is available in a 450k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: Direttive per garatire un azione coordinat di prevenzione (Interior Ministry, Italy, 8/14/2009)