PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. - Red light cameras are supposed to help prevent traffic crashes.
Several are eying drivers across intersections throughout West Palm Beach.
Palm Beach County is also hopping on the camera bandwagon. Up to 20 more cameras are being installed countywide.
Drivers caught running red lights, pay $158 in green. In West Palm Beach, the cameras are paying off. From February - October, the city made nearly $640,000 from red light cameras.
But drivers, like Richard Gamble, are fighting back.
"What I have a problem with is the whole concept of for-profit operation getting involved in law enforcement. To me, it's kind of like the mafia getting involved in law enforcement," he told the Contact 5 Investigators.
Gamble, a college theater professor, is acting out his frustration over red light technology with a gadget called Phantom Alert.
You can download the software to any GPS or iPhone and it gives drivers a head's up on up to 400,000 locations zoned 'ticket-friendly.' Those locations range from school speed zones to intersections equipped with red light cameras.
"I like to have it because I like to know where the school zones are and I'd like to know where heavy enforcement is going on, and I really like to know where those crazy cameras are," said Gamble.
The technology is user based, which means it's up to drivers to update the master database.
The software is also legal, but Assistant Police Chief Dennis Crispo of the West Palm Beach Police Department worries that the computerized tracking system may be protecting drivers who shouldn't be on the road.
Phantom Alert also sounds alarms on checkpoints targeting drunk drivers.
"Giving people a license to avoid DUI checkpoints is not serving society at all because that's how people die in an accident," he said.
The company behind the software insists its mission is to help drivers avoid traffic tickets by helping them obey traffic laws.
"We deter drivers from drinking and driving by reminding them of all the possible DUI checkpoints out there and sharing the sad and costly stories of drivers who report DUI locations," said its founder, Joe Scott.
Scott goes on to state, "Some of the reports for DUI checkpoints are from drivers who have received (DUI) tickets and you can see on the website their comments and advice urging other drivers not to drink and drive."
Richard Gamble isn't looking to skirt the law; in fact, he's never even been issued a ticket.
"I don't drive crazy," he said
Instead, for this self proclaimed gadget geek, Phantom Alert is his extra pair of eyes, just like the police now have theirs.
Phantom Alert is only as accurate as the users who update it. When the Contact 5 Investigators put the software to the test, we found it did point out several speed enforcement locations, but didn't catch them all.
Phantom Alert is not a free service. The software will cost you from a monthly $10 charge to a lifetime user fee of $100.
Copyright (c) 2010 The E. W . Scripps Company and Angie's List
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