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Cameras are not good politics

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By Jay Miller

     SANTA FE — Why are traffic cameras so controversial? We know that speeding and running red lights is dangerous so we have passed laws establishing penalties against people who do it.

     So what’s wrong with taking a picture of people who have broken the law? For some reason many people who would classify themselves as law-and-order types become downright angry at the notion of their right to privacy being invaded.

     Those same people have no problem with a surveillance camera catching a lawbreaker. They usually also figure that if you’re not the type to break the law, why object to things like warrantless wiretapping or home searches?

     But in those cases, there is only a suspicion of lawbreaking. No one has persuaded a judge that maybe a law is being broken. In the case of traffic cameras, a machine already has clocked a vehicle traveling over the speed limit or having entered an intersection when the light was already red.

     The only questions are the identity of the driver and the vehicle. So a camera peeks inside your windshield to take a picture of you and takes another of your license plate.