Class-action lawsuit filed against Lynnwood’s traffic cameras

LYNNWOOD — A Lake Forest Park man has filed a federal class-action lawsuit over Lynnwood’s traffic-enforcement cameras. The lawsuit seeks damages for thousands of drivers who have been ticketed.

An attorney representing Ian Jordan, 40, says that state law requires the city to post annual data about the program. He says the city lagged years behind in sharing that information.

The reports in question were posted “shortly after it came to our attention from Mr. Jordan,” city spokeswoman Julie Moore said Thursday.

The city has received the lawsuit. “At this time, we don’t have a comment,” she said.

Jordan had filed a claim for damages in September seeking an estimated $5 million in ticket refunds. The lawsuit, filed Feb. 27, asks a judge to order the city to return to drivers a large amount of money, to be determined at trial. The suit focuses on the time period between June 2014 and October 2016.

State law governs the use of traffic-enforcement cameras and requires data reporting in some circumstances. The lawsuit alleges that Lynnwood issued as many as 30,000 citations a year in violation of the law. Each red-light ticket costs up to $124. The city also uses school-zone speed cameras, which can issue more expensive tickets. The lawsuit covers both kinds of cameras, said Jordan’s attorney, Jay Carlson.

The lawsuit says that without proper data, people and their elected leaders cannot determine whether the cameras are improving safety or are “merely being used as a revenue collection device.”

“Revenue collection is not an authorized use or justification for these cameras,” the suit says.

Jordan, who works in aviation electronics, was accused of running a red light near Alderwood mall in July. He contested the ticket and paid a reduced $85 fine.

After Jordan’s claim was filed, the police department posted more-recent camera data reports on its website, under the “Reports &Statistics” tab. The 2016 version is called an “Automated Traffic Safety Camera Report” and cites the state law requirements that Jordan has questioned. The report includes citation numbers for red-light and school-zone speed cameras, along with accident data.

Lynnwood has cameras posted in 11 locations, and some sites use more than one of the devices. The busiest intersection for camera tickets was 196th Street SW and 36th Avenue W. That location generated 9,642 citations last year, according to the city’s report. That’s also where Jordan got a ticket as he headed to the freeway.

His lawsuit challenges the use of the devices in that spot. Jordan alleges that 36th Avenue W. is not an arterial where it approaches a ramp to I-5. State laws have limitations on where the cameras can be posted.

Lynnwood’s camera revenue for years has drawn questions about public policy. Data analysis by the police department has been inconclusive on whether the cameras are making city streets safer. From 2007 through 2015, the city collected $19.2 million in gross camera revenue. The newspaper in years past obtained that number through public records requests.

The City Council extended the red-light camera contract last year, after reviewing a national study on the devices that was funded by automotive insurers. It was noted at public meetings that Lynnwood doesn’t have reliable data on its program.

The current extension goes through January 2018, Moore said. The school-zone cameras are under a separate contract that expires later next year. In considering the extension, city councilmembers discussed the potential loss to the budget if the cameras went away.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @rikkiking.

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