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Red-Light Camera Yields Case Of Mistaken Identity

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Red-light cameras. Just the mention of them will get strongopinions from drivers.

Many drivers do not like the idea of "Big Brother" watching them -- especially those who have been sent red-light tickets by mistake.

Since March 2000, 12,093 people have been caught running red lights inFayetteville. When the All-American City's red-light cameras catch drivers,they receive a ticket in the mail.

Margaret Jacques, who lives in Raleigh, got one of the tickets from Fayetteville in September.

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"The first letter we actually opened was the one for failure to pay. We gotto looking for the original and found out when we were out of town I hadgotten a citation from the City of Fayetteville for running a red light," she said.

Jacques'citation stated she ran the red light at Martin Luther King Parkwayat Ramsey Street, just north of downtown Fayetteville. The problem? Jacques said she has never been to Fayetteville.

That is not all.

"The car in the picture looks like a small brown Honda. I have a silver Impala," she said.

The license plates are only one digit off, but they do not match.

"I was very angry," Jacques said. "The first thing that came to mind iswhere was I on Sept 12 at 12 o'clock? I have not a clue, I felt like acriminal."

So how could this mistake happen?

"It happens through error, human error," said Rusty Thompson, Fayettevilletraffic engineer.

Thompson said someone misread the red-light violator's license plate. The cityhas voided Jacque's ticket, but not before Jacque said she had to make repeatedcalls, get her own copies of documents and chase down what happened.

"They put the responsibility to prove that's not my car on me. No moreinnocent until proven guilty, it's the other way around," she said.

Thompson said he is sorry about what happened, but said Fayetteville has agood track record. Of those 12,093 red light tickets, 52 were sent to thewrong driver. That is less than one percent.

"I don't think we're improperly watching anybody. We're only watching thepeople who run red lights and there is some human error in processing thatinformation," Thompson said.

After Jacques case of mistaken identity, she now thinks the red lightcameras are a mistake.

Since Raleigh put up red light cameras in August, the city has issued 1,945red light violations. Engineers said 15 of those tickets are being appealedfor possible mistaken identity.


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