Oregon red light vendor stores some photos for 3 years

Red light photos stay on the books for three years in Portland

SAY CHEESE: Red light photos stay on the books for three years in Portland

By Shelby Sebens | Northwest Watchdog

Ever wonder what happens to that mug of your car after you get a red light ticket and all is said and done?

In Portland, the vendor that runs the red light traffic cameras keeps them for three years. If you don’t get a ticket, the photos are on file for 30 days, Sgt. Pete Simpson, public information officer for the Portland Police Bureau, said.

And now, thanks to a new Oregon law, passed overwhelmingly by the legislature and signed by Gov. John Kitzhaber, police will have the authority to thumb through the trove of photos if their looking for a criminal. The new law, which goes into effect in January, allows police to use red light camera photos in criminal cases involving felonies, Class A misdemeanors and red light running infractions.

Police who pushed for the bill say the intent was to be able to use the photos to catch child abductors, car thieves and other serious offenders. “We were pleased that we were able to keep our initial intent in there to use it for serious types of crimes,” Beaverton Police Chief Geoff Spalding said.

Spalding did not know how long Beaverton keeps photos. He said they are in the hands of the vendor, Redflex. Spalding said with the new law, police will be looking through photos if they are having trouble catching a suspect and think they might have a shot of that person taken by a red light camera. He said police will not be going through images on a daily basis.

Spalding said he was pleased that few legislators voted against the bill. The House passed it 53-6 after it was amended in the Senate, where it passed  22-8.

“It didn’t raise as much ire as I thought,” he said, adding he thinks people realized the police are not trying to be a big brother but just have the ability to catch the serious violators.”

But still, some, including the American Civil Liberties Union have voiced concerns that expanding the role of red light cameras is a slippery slope and could lead to a surveillance state.

Contact Shelby Sebens at [email protected]

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