I-TEAM: Exposing mistakes on traffic camera tickets

LINNDALE, Ohio -- The FOX 8 I-TEAM is investigating mistakes on traffic camera tickets in Linndale, the tiny town in Cuyahoga County best known for tickets.

Linndale town leaders avoided the I-TEAM camera and our questions about how often the wrong drivers get tickets from traffic cameras.

We started looking into this after we found a ticket sent to the wrong driver, FOX 8 employee Hector Perez.

The traffic cameras snap pictures of license plates after violations. Drivers then get tickets with $100 fines in the mail.

Perez turned to the I-TEAM after a was citation sent to him.

“It was a different car with my plate number. How they did that? I don’t know," he said, “When I went in the computer, I made the picture bigger. You can see the plate, but it’s a different type of car.”

The camera snapped a picture of a car. Perez drives a van.

The license plate numbers are the same, but Perez has an Ohio license plate. The car in the photo on the ticket has a plain white plate. Nothing matched.

Perez told us,“I was looking, and it was supposed to be 10:40 at night. By that time we all were in bed. On the workday, I’m always in bed early to get up early in the morning.”

That made us wonder how many tickets are wrong?

Linndale Police Chief Tim Franczak told us by phone, he had “no idea” and “no way to find out.”

He pointed out a private company runs the cameras and sends out the tickets. The chief also told us that he and another officer review every camera ticket.

So, we went to see him.

The chief never came out from behind a glass window to talk to us.

He said, “camera tickets are a civil issue, not a criminal issue.”

But we reminded him, he still reviews the tickets.

He then said, “I review the work of… that they submit.”

But he never explained what specifically gets reviewed.

Franczak repeated, “It’s not a law enforcement issue. It’s a civil issue.”

So we pressed him on why he reviews the tickets if they’re civil.

His response was, “have a nice day.”

The Linndale mayor wouldn’t answer questions for us, either.

However, the I-TEAM found in the contract between Linndale and the company for the traffic cameras tha the Village is expected to “carefully review” each violation captured. And, the village is “solely responsible” for which violations are sent out as tickets.

Meantime, for weeks, we’ve asked Linndale for the overall number of tickets issued and the fines collected. Linndale officials claim they don’t know. But that contract said the town gets “monthly reports” from the traffic camera company for violations captured, tickets issued, tickets paid and more.

Ultimately, the Linndale law director sent a statement.

Richard Neff wrote, “As is the case with all human endeavors, some error will occur.”

He added, Linndale has a process for drivers to challenge any tickets.

Neff wrote, "The Village continues to strive to make the correction process as convenient and painless as possible.”

Perez wonders, are you looking closely at your ticket for errors?

He asked, “How many people are paying the ticket without noticing the difference? It’s not even the same car.”

No hard numbers. Vague answers. Our investigation exposed the mystery behind the mistakes.

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