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Letters Column

Week of February 9, 2006


Moving Violation

Missing the big picture: Chad Garrison's "Red Light, Green Light" missed the big picture completely. His primary source was an angry former salesman who was fired for cause and now working for his third red-light-camera company in just the last twelve months. Contrary to the characterization of Garrison's story, our firm has earned a reputation for integrity and quality and operates with the highest professional standards. On the other hand, our competitors are trying to slow our progress in this market by manipulating the facts or simply fabricating events.

Red-light camera technology has become a common component of community-based policing across the United States and Canada. Cities and towns across the U.S. have different procurement methods, and Garrison's article implies that the pace of the St. Louis procurement was unusual — which it was not. For example, the Seattle procurement he referenced moved even faster and is already closed and under contract (with ATS).

ATS was awarded more than 70 percent of the competitive procurements that we bid on across the U.S. and Canada during the past twelve months. We offer our best technology and service and we deliver measurable value to our customers through increased traffic safety. Our solutions enable the police to leverage technology so that they can spend their time on other important activities that technology cannot do for them. Red-light cameras reduce violations, reduce crashes and injuries and they are paid for by red-light runners and not law-abiding taxpayers.
Bill Kroske, vice president of business development, American Traffic Solutions, Inc., Scottsdale, Arizona


True Crime

Keep the change: I thoroughly enjoyed Kristen Hinman's "Trick or Treatment." As an attorney I have had many clients sentenced to treatment for a wide variety of offenses and I always wondered about the value and efficacy of the process.

Certainly all of us have an interest in making sure that offenders stop offending, but it seems to me that most of these treatment programs are simply easy ways for members of the judicial system to feel like they have accomplished something when in fact not much changes in the mental makeup of the offender. It was around ten years ago that my first shoplifting client was sentenced to "theft management class." I remember wondering at the time what was taught there. Somehow I pictured a scene from Oliver Twist with the Artful Dodger and Fagin teaching Oliver how to deftly pick a pocket without being caught. Perhaps this was one way to keep the shoplifters from showing up in court again.

I later discovered that the class was actually some sort of new-age "self-esteem awareness exercise." I doubted then and I doubt now that a touchy-feely approach to the problem does much good. For those of us with children, it's pretty obvious that if good morals and values aren't instilled during childhood, it's hard to expect exemplary behavior from someone after reaching eighteen. And while those who offend certainly have problems, low self-esteem is rarely among them. In fact, many offenders are narcissistic and it is their high self-esteem and unrealistic expectations from the world that gets them into trouble.

Again, the article was excellent and I hope that it helps those of us in the criminal-justice system give more thought to the proper punishment for each crime. C. Edward Brown, St. Louis

Repeat offenders: When Missouri's Prison Community College system existed before the mid-1990s, the recidivism rate of its students was 10 percent. Now Missouri's prison recidivism rate is 71 percent. Missouri taxpayers would be ahead if Missouri's Prison Community College system was restored.

The Reverend Jim Wallis, editor of Sojourners magazine, gave a speech on December 1 at the downtown Hilton Pavilion in which he said the inmates of New York's Sing Sing Prison seem to come from the same neighborhood. Consequently, the Union Theological Seminary is offering Master's of Divinity degrees to Sing Sing inmates to give them a sound education in ethics so that upon release they can return to their neighborhood and work to keep their neighbors out of prison. Michael Moore's Dude, Where's My Country, says, "Forty percent of the U.S. prison population is functionally illiterate." Restoring our Prison Community College system would fix this in Missouri.

Colonel John Mosby, the "Gray Ghost" commander of the Virginia Irregulars in the American Civil War, murdered a classmate as a child and spent nine years in jail studying the law. He passed the bar upon release and became a successful lawyer. After the Civil War he became a Republican Congressman. It is better to nip any crime in the bud with education and training than let it fester by habitual repeat offenses. The mission of the criminal-justice system must always be rehabilitation of the offender.
Joseph J. Kuciejczyk, St. Louis


Hip Hop Stopped

Good riddance: Did Ben Westhoff perform any investigative journalism before he turned in "Kafe Kibosh"? Did he contact the Pattonville Fire District to see if there was a fire permit? Did he check with the St. Louis County Health Department to see if an initial health inspection had been performed? Did he check with the city of St. Ann to find out if a merchant's license had been issued? Or did he just take Robert Porter Jr.'s word that there was a conspiracy amongst the "good old white people raised in St. Ann" to deny Porter his rights?

I know from speaking with the clerk in charge of merchants' licenses in St. Ann that no one contacted her regarding the Hip Hop Kafe. Sounds like Westhoff decided to go with race baiting instead of journalism.
Paul LaBelle, Overland


Sour Note The fine art of self-promotion: How appalling to see Mike Seely dismiss an entire art form (musical theater) when he obviously has so little knowledge or understanding of it. An art form can't be good or bad, trivial or profound, only the uses to which it is put. I could list for you, without a lot of effort, 100 musicals that are serious, intelligent, insightful pieces of drama. With a little research, I could probably top 300.

And Seely should be doubly chastised since he lives in a city with a theater company devoted exclusively to intelligent, substantial, issue-driven musical theater: New Line Theatre.

Dismissing an entire art form doesn't make you sound smart or hip, just a bit ridiculous and a lot shallow.

By the way, the film version of Best Little Whorehouse badly trivializes a very serious true story about the abuse of the media and corruption in politics, giving it a sappy happy ending instead of the real-world tragic ending.
Scott Miller, artistic director, New Line Theatre, St. Louis

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