Cameras don't stop red-light violators: Despite new system in Auburn, number of offenses keeps rising

By Mike Archbold
Journal Reporter

The cash continues to roll in from red light scofflaws at two intersections guarded by Auburn's new PhotoSafe automatic cameras.

In the three months since the system went operational, total violations caught on camera have increased from 1,218 in July to 1,242 in August and to 1,324 in September.

That's about 42 violations a day. Take away camera failures and other mistakes, and the city shows a positive cash flow of $33,369 for the system's first three months watching the highway that leads to the Muckleshoot Indian Casino and the White River Amphitheatre.

And that's after paying its three-month bill to Redflex Traffic System, which installed and operates the system.

That positive revenue is sure to grow since only 29 percent of the infractions have been paid and the city plans to install more cameras at other intersections.

Those who don't respond to a ticket within 15 days with either a request for a hearing or the $101 fine will be charged a $33 late fee. Redflex has a collection agency that will go after those who fail to pay; the collection fee is an additional 33 percent of the cost of the ticket.

Under the state law authorizing photo red light cameras, anyone with two tickets in a year who hasn't paid the fines will not be allowed to get their vehicle license tabs renewed until the fines are paid.

Auburn Mayor Pete Lewis said 47 percent of the violations are from motorists who live outside the city.

Thus far 537 violators have contested the ticket or asked for a mitigation hearing, according to the report.

Lewis said Reflex has indicated that in other cities the number of violations per intersection tend to drop over time. The city's preliminary budget for 2007-08 reflects no revenue stream from the cameras.

Lewis said he understands the Auburn Municipal Court is rarely reducing the $101 cost of a red light infraction. Courts often mitigate fines for speeding tickets, but not for infractions such as parking tickets and the like.

A court spokeswomen said a few fines have been reduced but only in extreme hardship cases.

The ticket includes photographs of the vehicle approaching the intersection with the red light and in the intersection with the red light, as well as a close-up of the vehicle's license plate. There is even a short video of the offending car that ticket holders can access on the Internet with a special password.

The court spokeswoman said some people request a hearing and haven't seen the video.

When they see it, they pay up, she said, adding that the court is planning to set up a way for people who don't have computers to see the video at the courthouse.

Lewis marvels that a few people who run the red lights have been caught more than once in a day. That shows a real disrespect for the community and safety, the mayor said.

The cameras were installed for two approaches at two intersections: Auburn Way South and M Street Southeast and Auburn Way South at Fourth Street Southeast just north of the State Route 18 overpass and exits to Auburn Way South.

Mike Archbold can be reached at or at 253-872-6647.

Last modified: October 20. 2006 12:00AM