The Republic is at it again. In another display of journalism at its worst, Arizona Republic writer Nathan Gonzalez spreads propaganda and tries to give credit to Mesa’s photo enforcement program where credit isn’t due.
In what is truly a stretch of a headline, the Republic proclaims, “Mesa police credit photo enforcement for accident decline.” Never mind that quotes from police Sgt. Andy Nesbit in the same article contradict this, “Understand, though, that we can’t say photo safety is the cause.” In fact Nesbit point out that several other factors have probably helped, “Traffic patrols and the city’s involvement in DUI task forces have played a role along with the photo-enforcement program,” Nesbit said.
Proper journalism would call for an interview of an expert on the matter such as a city traffic engineer as well as a comparison of data to other cities and regional and national trends. Had Nathan done this, he’d have shown a national trend of a reduction in fatalities of about 9%, and a 18-20% reduction in overall accidents. The traffic engineer could have also provided data on traffic volume through the city, as the number of miles traveled can have a huge impact on crash numbers. When these facts are considered, Mesa probably saw an INCREASE in accidents and fatalities, as Mesa reports that the number of fatalities was unchanged and a reduction in overall crashes of only 7% – significantly less than national averages. Accidents are usually categorized as either non-injury, injury, and fatality. Curiously, the article omits injury accident numbers.
Nathan also attempts the classical tactic of using emotion to tug at the readers heartstrings by opening the article with a story about a fatal accident involving a red light runner. It’s unclear because of how it’s (purposefully?) written, but the person killed in the accident was actually the person who ran the red light as explained in this article. There’s not enough information to draw any solid conclusions, but our money says that the 60-year-old woman probably wasn’t merely trying to “beat the light” or avoid sitting in traffic and that a camera would not have made any difference except to mail her a ticket a few weeks later.
The article also highlights the ineffectiveness of the photo enforcement system but glosses over these facts:
Of the photo-radar speed tickets generated, Mesa Municipal Court documents indicate that 7,693 were paid last year and 8,488 were either dismissed by the Police Department or dismissed because the driver wasn’t served with the ticket.
Of the red-light citations, 4,849 were paid and 6,139 were dismissed.
This gives the speed tickets an effectiveness rate of only 48%, and red light tickets a rate of 44%. So much for fair “law enforcement.” The rates get even worse if you consider the total number of citations which were mentioned in the side bar. Total speed citations: 23,533. Total Red Light citations: 18,200.
Another curious observation is the lack of the ability to comment on the story. Afraid of letting the truth get in the way again, Arizona Republic?