Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Illinois Red Light Camera Update: Berwyn is still trying to rob you

Well, after my initial Berwyn-inspired post detailing what you need to know about red light cameras in Illinois, there have been a few updates.

Needless to say, Berwyn is still trying to take your money. And they're doing it in more creative ways than I even realized! Take a look at the video below looking northbound at the corner of Harlem and Cermak and try to spot the infraction:

Did you see it? Look again. Did you see that white car taking a left? Bingo...

It appears Berwyn has a SECOND camera aimed at a slightly different angle, snapping pictures of motorists who go LEFT in the intersection after the yellow left arrow disappears. Now, this is marginally less insidious that what I have already chronicled in their right on red trap, but it's still greasy, given that when that yellow arrow disappears, it becomes...you guessed it, a green light.

Essentially, Berwyn is doing what so many communities across the country are doing - studying the most common, yet harmless, driver tendencies, and turning them into cash. In this left-on-red case, I have nothing I concrete to prove that Berwyn isn't within its smarmy rights, but it is also well within my rights to keep you informed of what they are doing to take your hard-earned money.

On another note, you may recall that in my original post, I advised you to ALWAYS appear in court to dispute a violation, and today I have a success story, which is hopefully the first of many. Bill writes (Ha, Bill and Ted, excellent!):

Hi Ted:

I just wanted to let you know the I ticket I got at the camera-monitored red light at Harlem and Cermak was set aside due to what the judge said was “reasonable doubt” I’m not going to quibble as I could easily have envisioned the same judge fining me for my quick stop. I was ready to go with my “lack of signage” argument and had the pictures from your web site in hand but never had to use them.

The judge appeared to be the same older distinguished fellow as you described in your website. He appeared to be well-read, fair, with a sense of humor but one who would truck no nonsense. He rendered a “reasonable doubt” verdict to one fellow who responded with a beaming smile to which the judge sternly stated. “Stop your smirking like you got away with something because you didn’t. I’m just ruling a reasonable doubt” There were no post-verdict smiles after that.

It’s funny but amongst the 20 people or so that went before me I’d bet that he let off about 15 of them with the same “reasonable doubt” verdicts. To the other five he said “Sir, you didn’t even try to stop”. I don’t know- maybe Berwyn is feeling a little bit of embarrassment over the bad press it has been receiving both in the local papers and on websites like yours and is only going after the most obvious scofflaws?

As I said, I was going to contend that with the little sign being gone from the pole that the site looked more like an unmarked yield-right-of-way than a full-fledged stop point and that’s a big part of the reason I move through the zone so quickly. If that sign was present there is no way I would have gone through it. I wonder if anyone had ever raised the issue. Well, may be a moot point now because Berwyn I thought I saw a new sign just this week.

So Ted I again want to thank you for the pointers I got from your webpage in preparing for the hearing. It truly is a public service and I hope others will read it as well. And like the judge suggested I will be doing the old “One Mississippi- Two Mississippi-Three-Mississippi” at every one of my future stop signs. So if you get stuck behind me please lay off of the horn.

Best Regards,

You're most welcome, Bill. Just one person having a positive outcome makes this worth it, but I hope for many more.

And thanks, Bill, for THIS LINK. As I said in my initial post, Rahm Emanuel is on the wrong side of this issue (as expected), and reading this just made my blood boil.

We've got a long road ahead....with a lot of cameras on it...

Related Material:

Click here for all you need to know about Red Light Cameras in Illinois


  1. The City of Berwyn hasn't exactly been . . . truthful . . . when it comes to their Red Light Camera program. The city's Web site lists four camera intersections.

    But the city also admits that the red light camera on Eastbound Cermak Road at Ridgeland hasn't been operating since 2012. Apparently, there's no law which requires them to be honest about which cameras work, and which cameras are only dummies. That's because the City of Berwyn believes we're just a bunch of dummies, I guess.

  2. The Red Light Camera on northbound Harlem Avenue at Cermak in Berwyn operated for nearly all of 2013 and into 2014 without one of the IDOT-mandated warning signs for motorists.

    The 2009 IL Supplement to the MUTCD (Manual Uniform Traffic Control Devices) requires that all Red Light Camera intersections have TWO warning signs. The first sign has to be on the approach to the intersection, and the second sign has to be mounted on the FAR SIDE of the red light intersection.

    The City of Berwyn now claims that the 'far side' sign at Cermak 'fell off' the pole at some point (apparently no one in the city's Sign Department noticed it was missing when they changed out the street signs to the new, larger blue ones).

    Berwyn's City Attorney Anthony Bertuca as well as Tom Pavlik, City Clerk, both insisted the sign was there - despite crystal clear photo evidence that the sign was gone.

    So all those drivers who were ticketed by the City of Berwyn for Harlem & Cermak violations and paid their $100 fine were actually ticketed by a Red Light system that DID NOT comply with State of IL IDOT Regulations.

    But remember, it's all about SAFETY, not about the MONEY.

    1. Hello Captain,

      One of my exceedingly tenacious readers has also been keeping me up to date on his investigations of this issue. It may result in another post when the facts all come to light...:

      "This thing stinks the deeper you dig.

      Berwyn replaced the missing 'far side' sign at Harlem & Cermak on
      2-14-14, but the replacement wasn't the required 'standard' sign.

      At some point between 2-14 and 3-21, Berwyn replaced the sign again,
      this time with an IDOT compliant version.

      In their FOIA response, Berwyn said that they have no idea when the
      sign fell down or was knocked down by weather. My guess is that they
      removed it when they installed the new larger blue street signs, but
      the city will never 'fess up to doing that. When they installed this
      latest sign, they also moved the 'Cermak Road' sign from the vertical
      mast to the horizontal arm.

      I also learned that Anthony Bertuca was the 'hearing officer' at my
      hearing. Bertuca is the Berwyn City Attorney with a disciplinary
      record from the ARDC:


      He was part of the Ed Vrdolyak law firm at the time. He missed a
      critical filing date for an accident victim and had his law license
      suspended for ninety days.

      Before that, he was in the City of Chicago's Corporation Counsel
      office, but abruptly resigned when it was disclosed that he was
      operating an outside law practice (a violation of Corporation Counsel
      rules), including representing a client trying to do business with the
      City of Chicago.

      The City Attorney's 'Mission Statement' includes a statement about
      them overseeing prosecution of ordinance violations and coordinating
      traffic signs.

      The IL State Bar Association, however, says that it is a conflict of
      interest for a city prosecutor to act as a hearing officer.

      So my next stop is to the ARDC, charging Bertuca with a conflict of
      interest, among other things.

      I did get some minor satisfaction from the fact that it cost the city
      more to put the sign back up than it collected in my fine."

      As expected, there is some profoundly shady stuff going on.

      Evil Ted

  3. One of the State statutory requirements for red light camera operation says that the municipality must publish annual crash data for each intersection equipped with a camera. That data is supposed to be published on the municipality's Web site.

    The City of Berwyn has found a way to comply, but still keep the crash reports well hidden. If you go to the City's main Web page, or any of the links on the City's main Web page, you won't find the report. In order to read the published report, you have to manually type in the Web address. Since no one outside of city government knows the specific Web address, the report is 'published', but hidden. To read the report for the 22nd & Harlem intersection, go to:


    One of the more remarkable conclusions the report reaches is that the number of crashes at the 22nd & Harlem intersection remains THE SAME after the red light camera was installed. There is some variation in the type and cause of the accidents, but the intersection is NO SAFER today than it was before the camera was installed.

    So the obvious question has to be - if the camera is there for safety - why not remove it if the data shows it's not achieving its goal? The answer is simple, and obvious. The camera is a cash cow for the City of Berwyn. It brings in over $800,000 a year in red light ticket revenue. It's not about safety and it never was. It's about money. That's why the camera isn't being removed.

  4. I received a ticket from the red light at Harlem and Cermak. I refuted by mail stating that I wasn't driving my car at the time. I was sent a verdict, it was ruled that I owed the ticket. It's been a few months since the letter arrived (I didn't pay the ticket) and I haven't received any more mail. I am hoping the ticket evaporated and will call in the near future. I am wondering if anyone has experienced anything similar? Thanks, L.

    1. The red light camera tickets are issued to the car owner, not the driver. One allowable defense under the law is for the owner to identify the driver, then the driver has to agree to a attending a 'driver safety' class. The class isn't free, I think it's $25. Did you identify the driver in your dispute letter?

      Don't assume it 'went away'. The notice of the violation (if unpaid) goes to the Secretary of State's office. They have the power to suspend either your driver's license or the car's plates until the fine is paid. I hope you have some proof that you mailed them your dispute. I've gone one-on-one in front of City Attorney Anthony Bertucca, and he will lie, then find you guilty. It's a kangaroo court, but it rakes in thousands of dollars at each session.