Red light cameras have become an example of how technology can negatively impact the community. Initially, these cameras were installed to alleviate traffic concerns, bring income to the city, and ensure public safety. However, red light cameras are also forcing many Chicago residents to file for bankruptcy…and Chris Scott, Founder and Chairman of Opulent Credit Builders is providing assistance for people adversely affected by mounting debt due to auto tickets, impacting their jobs, housing, and credit rating.
In a recent conversation with Chris, it was noted that red light cameras are more frequently located in specific Chicago neighborhoods. Those who are adversely affected by red light camera ticketing tend to be people of color, as well as have relatively low income. Once a resident receives a ticket (costing at least $150), that person has two weeks to pay it without penalty. (Many Chicago residents – including Chris’ clients – have difficulty coming up with that amount; many part-time and low-income workers do not have available cash.) After two weeks, the amount doubles to $300 and often results in a choice between either paying the traffic ticket…or putting food on the table. Or a roof over their head. For many families of color, this can eventually result in filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy. According to recent articles from ProPublica, that African-Americans are filing for bankruptcy at a disproportionately higher rate and experiencing severe consequences because of ticket debt.
(Before anyone cites that people are “breaking the law” when caught by a red light camera…like any other technology, red light cameras are due to failure. After a city ordinance removed the requirement of a second notice, this kind of action forces people who are already in dire financial straits even further. A recent lawsuit cited how many people were “wronged” through inappropriate and selective enforcement. According to ProPublica, fees from red light camera ticket accounted for approximately seven percent of Chicago’s total 2016 budget, or approximately $264 million in revenue. Given these facts, red light camera tickets feel like a desperate money grab by the City of Chicago. As a former resident of St. Louis, I understand how some small municipalities often rely on municipal fees for funding. Yet the State of Missouri managed to place some limits on collecting municipal fees. With Chapter 13 bankruptcy affecting many Chicago residents’ ability to find good jobs, adequate housing, or other needed resources, this seems like an unduly harsh and punitive policy by the City.)
As Founder and Chairman of the city’s sole MBE certified credit repair company, Chris Scott is providing credit repair and financial literacy services through Opulent Credit Builders. Clients will be given assistance in finding and reading their credit report, examining what items are impacting their credit score, and taking action to have certain items removed. (Yes, many people can do this themselves, but it is a time-consuming process; as Chris Scott clarified to me, the totality of the experience can be daunting and intimidating). Clients also receive a copy of Chris Scott’s book, Credit. What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You. This philosophy of “helping rather than hurting” people is a great rationale for Opulent Credit Builders to take a stand and provide these services (and yes, there is a fee).
But ultimately, technology should always be done in service of the community. Red light cameras were initially installed for the purpose of relieving traffic issues and bringing revenue to the city. Unfortunately, in some Chicago neighborhoods, they are providing an additional strain on residents and creating a financial burden rather than financial relief. Thankfully, Chris Scott and Opulent Credit Builders are taking steps to start moving Chicago residents forward.
And as always, thanks for reading!