We received the following story from a neighbor. Though our neighbor’s story should serve as a cautionary tale for fraud, the Stop Arm camera system is designed to catch reckless drivers illegally passing school buses. Nevertheless, make sure you alert the proper authorities if you’re ever in fear of potential fraud.
On March 11, 2018, I drove past St.John’s Church and noticed three school buses parked on Broad St. One month later, I received a notice of violation for passing a School Bus with the Stop Sign sticking out along with a photo of my car. The notice gave a phone number to call if I wanted to contest the violation. After many attempts, I was able to talk to someone in Arizona who informed me that if I contested the violation, it would go on my driving record, I would have points placed against me and I would still have to pay a $250.00 fine. However, if I just paid the $250.00 fine that would be it. I did some investigating and found out that:
- This “stop arm” system is supplied to the various school systems and operated by a third party at no charge to the school system for equipment installation and management.
- This third party company makes their money by taking a percentage of fines collected. My inquiry as to what percentage their cut was would never be forthcoming. [Editor’s Note: According to Richmond Public Schools, “It goes 60 percent back to Force Multiplier Solutions, that pays for their costs and it pays for the investment of the equipment that they put up, then 40% will go into the general purpose fund of Richmond Public Schools.”]
I went to court and was found innocent because the photo did not show that there were two other School Buses in front of this one without their stop signs out. There were no children loading or unloading, and the photo of my car was well past the “stop arm” when taken. The stop sign was not out when I passed the bus.
Should you get such a notice of violation, I urge you to contest it and go to court. Most people just pay it and that is what this third-party company is counting on. They make it difficult to contest and give false information about the consequences of doing so.
How does this system work?
The cameras in the school buses will record video and images of cars and license plates. The company that installed and runs the cameras then determines if there’s a violation. If there is, it will be submitted to Richmond police electronically. Officers will then determine whether or not to issue a ticket.
Then interim superintendent told ABC 8 news:
“We’re averaging 30 violations a day,” Interim Superintendent Tommy Kranz says, “So that indicates to me that yes, it is working.” 100 school buses are equipped with a total of 13 cameras, nine on the outside and four on the inside. From the first day of Fall to October 24, 1,021 citations were issued to drivers who illegally pass a school bus when the stop-arm is out or red lights are flashing.
This doesn’t mean the system cannot be abused. This past October, the FBI raided the home of the CEO of Force Multiplier Solutions. It’s interesting to see that the company’s websites are down since January 2018. It seems the neighbor in our story may have been contacted by Alert Bus.
Despite these traffic violation woes, please be aware that it is illegal to pass a stopped school bus with its arm out and flashing lights on unless the driver and bus are separated by a physical median. The safety of our students and pedestrians is of the utmost importance after all.