The Hectorcampbell NDA meets the second Monday of every month at 6:30pm in the Community Room of the Public Safety Building: 3200 SE Harrison Street, Milwaukie, OR

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Photo Radar Van Audit

Below you will find a short document prepared by Police Chief Bob Jordan. It
describes how the photo radar van's operation has reduced traffic accidents,
deaths and property damage since its inception. The contract for operation of
the van is due to end in January 2011. The Chief has asked the Public Safety
Advisory committee (PSAC) to obtain public comment and provide input to him as
to whether or not to continue with this program. Mary Weaver, our NDA Chair
and PSAC representative, would like to hear comments from neighbors no later
than January 24th. Please email her at

Photo Radar Program Audit


The City of Milwaukie has been authorized to utilize photo radar by the Oregon State Legislature for speed enforcement since March 2008. The main purpose of photo radar has been to enhance traffic safety through the reduction of motor vehicle accidents in the City of Milwaukie. We are uniquely situated for the successful deployment of this technique because of the presence of two major highways, Route 224 and McLoughlin Boulevard, which bisect the city and are adjacent to residential neighborhoods.

The photo radar program is operated by the Milwaukie Police Department (MPD. The MPD has contracted with a vendor named ACS, to facilitate the program. Essentially, the photo radar program consists of an officer assigned to a marked police van. The van is equipped with state-of-art radar and photographic equipment. When deployed on the highway, this equipment will measure the speed of traffic, and take simultaneous photographs of the driver and the license plate of the speeding vehicle. Those photographs are used to identify the registered owner of the vehicle. The driver’s license photograph of the owner is then compared with the actual photograph taken on the highway. If there is a sufficient match of the two photographs, a citation is issued.

The enabling statute requires that the van be occupied by a police officer and that the measured speed be ten miles or more over the posted speed limit. ACS, our vendor assists in the processing of the data. That contract is set to expire in January, 2011.

The City’s operation of the program has been the occasional subject of regional media focus since the program’s inception. Most of the coverage has been balanced; some coverage, especially in the electronic media, has been critical.

The purpose of this audit is to use the occasion of the opportunity to renew the vendor contract, or not, to examine the overall benefit of the program; its track record in reducing motor vehicle accidents, its costs, its ability to offset the costs through revenue generation and its acceptance among our residents.

The plan is to put this factual information in the audit and ask MPD’s Public Safety Advisory Committee to share this information with their respective neighborhoods and provide feedback. This feedback will ultimately be provided to the City Council for their interest in continuing with the photo radar program.

Motor Vehicle Accident Prevention

"There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics."
- Mark Twain's Own Autobiography: The Chapters from the North American Review

The only way to accurately measure the reduction of motor vehicle accidents is through the use of statistics. Although there is some truth to Mark Twain’s quote above, statistics can be helpful in understanding the impact of photo radar on the prevention of accidents.

The raw figures are set forth below:

2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 (To June 1)
Total Crashes 172 165 168 137 63
Fatalities 0 1 1 1 0
Injuries 42 41 32 28 17
Property Dam. 130 123 134 108 46

McLoughlin 37 25 31 28 14
Hwy 224 18 6 10 18 6

One extrapolation from these statistics is that traffic crashes were down almost 20% in 2009 from 2008. Another extrapolation is that not only did we have fewer traffic accidents, but they were less serious as made evident by the reduced number of personal injury accidents. I will leave other more detailed extrapolations to other analyses, but I believe these figures show significant but varying rates of crash reductions since the start of the photo radar program in Milwaukie.


Fiscal Year 2009 Fiscal Year 2010 Fiscal Year 2011
Revenue Amount % of Revenue Amount % of Revenue Amount % of Revenue
Photo Radar Citations $474,000 87.6 693,000 90.5 693,000 90.5
Training Fee - Photo Radar 67,000 12.4 73,000 9.5 73,000 9.5
Total Revenue 541,000 100 766,000 100 766,000 100

Municipal Court - Allocation 209,000 38.6 275,000 35.9 275,000 35.9
Police - Direct Personnel Costs 106,000 19.6 111,000 15.3 117,000 15.3
Contractual Services 106,000 19.6 155,000 20.2 155,000 20.2
Equipment Lease 30,000 5.5 30,000 3.9 30,000 3.9
Vehicle Costs 12,000 2.2 12,000 1.6 12,000 1.6
Police - Indirect Costs 38,000 7 46,000 6 47,000 6.1
Total Estimated Program Expenditures 501,000 92.6 629,000 82.9 636,000 83

Net Surplus/(deficiency) program 40,000 7.4 137,000 17.9 130,000 17

A brief look at these figures indicates that the photo radar program has netted the City of Milwaukie approximately $135,000.00 annually after its costs are deducted from revenue. Although these are not exact figures (our primary photo radar officer has other collateral duties in the Department) the two full years of operation do depict a revenue stream to the City of about $135,000.00 a year. Although not a princely sum, when put with the reduction of traffic accidents, described above, it makes a modest case to continue the program.

I am hopeful that our PSAC will discuss the above with their neighbors and provide feedback, based on some factual information.


Anonymous said...

Although we'd need more data to make a statistical case, I want to point out that the standard deviations for the 5 (not including fatalities, since there are so few) data types are:

Total Crashes 41.1
Injuries 9.86
Property Dam. 32.4
McLoughlin 8.08
Hwy 224 5.55

So the 18% reduction from 2008-2009 is well within 1 standard deviation, making it pretty iffy to draw any conclusions from it. More data would be necessary to use this as part of the argument for continuing the program. Do we have more data?

L Hedges said...

I just wanted to say we appreciate your commenting and that your input is important.
Although the statistical outcome indicates there isn't really enough
evidence one way or the other to say whether the van has been doing what it's intended to do, there does appear to be anecdotal evidence that there
now does exist a much greater awareness on the part of those passing through Milwaukie that we want people to obey the speed limit. However, if you feel
you would like to discuss this further, Chief Jordan has said many times he wants people to contact him to have constructive discussions about the issue. You can email him at or phone him at the
police department on 503-786-7400 (the business line).