The world's largest red light camera system is facing tough pressure these days. It is caught up in the middle of a $2 million bribery scandal, and facing immense pressure after the Chicago Tribune, in an investigative story, brought to light inconsistencies and spikes in tickets that seem to indicate widespread human manipulation or undocumented equipment problems.

"Once again, the city's red light camera program is in the spotlight, and again it's not something beneficial to drivers," Chicago Alderman Scott Waguespack explained in an email to constituents. "This time there were problems caused by 'faulty equipment, human tinkering or both' and thousands of drivers were wrongly fined by the city for red light camera 'violations.'"

The Chicago Tribune's analysis looked at every single red light camera issued since 2007- and at least 9,000 tickets that were issued during what's being called random spikes- related to one of the following: yellow light timing, human manipulation, equipment error, or the rules of tuning right on a red light.

Even Mayor Rahm Emmanuel (D) has had to change tones and was forced to talk about the developments, after repeatedly dodging questions on the program his predecessor began. He said he would allow the motorists who received these tickets to file a new challenge. The mayor and aldermen sent separate requests to city Inspector General Joseph M. Ferguson asking for a formal investigation.

"OIG will publicly report the findings from its review of past activities, along with any recommendations for how the city, working with the new vendor, can assure the program operates effectively and fairly in the future," the inspector general's announcement stated. "If the review reveals any indication of purposeful manipulation or unlawful conduct, OIG will take action to investigate and will work with the appropriate prosecutorial authorities."


Last year, the inspector general issued a report finding no evidence that the red light camera program had done anything to improve safety in the Windy City (view report). Ferguson promised that this review would be "unconditional" looking into all areas of public concern.

Public concern is rising rapidly. On Friday, members with the group Citizens to Abolish Red Light Cameras plans to chart a roadmap for fighting the system in the weeks coming. The group has already been holding weekly protests throughout the city demanding an end to the red light cameras.