City to vote on intersection cameras

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Journal Staff Writer

“It’s not the first or second but the third car going through the red light we need to worry about,” said Maj. John Wagner of the Warner Robins Police Department.

Wagner presented intersection cameras to the city council once again as a means to stop drivers from running red lights. “The biggest reason is safety,” Wagner said. The city police department has tried to work hard with patrols and Operation SERV (stopping every red light violation). “It’s manpower intensive,” Wagner said, “and we lost a police car to a wreck at Houston Lake Road and Watson Boulevard.

Wagner told the city council at Tuesday’s called work session there were 481 red light violation citations issued in 2004, 1,800 in 2005 and about 652 so far this year just between two motorcycle officers.

He said the city is looking at intersections with high accidents, like Watson Boulevard at Houston Lake Road, Watson at Carl Vinson Parkway, and those streets’ intersections with Russell Parkway.

Wagner said there has been a 60 percent drop in accidents at intersections where the cameras are used “The city is a good specimen for red light cameras, “Wagner said. The whole premise is safety and reducing the number of accidents. I know different organizations don’t like them and have concerns about big brother watching, but it’s all about safety.”

It’s not a violation of privacy, Wagner said, “we’re not worried about what’s going on inside the car, but that the car runs a ref light.”

Fines generated by the cameras would go to pay for their cost, so there is no initial capital outlay for the city, noted Councilman Dean Cowart. The excess capital comes back to the city’s General Fund, which he proposed using for police instructed driver’s education for teens.

By state law, Wagner said the fines are only $70 and the violations caught on camera are considered no-points civil violations. If an officer observes the violation and writes a ticket it’s $86 in Municipal Court, $156 with an accident, and three points on the driver’s record.

The cameras take a picture of the vehicle tag as it goes through the red light. The tape would be viewed by a local police officer to verify the violation and sent back to the company, that then sends out the citations to the owner of the tag.

One of the providers Nestor, Wagner said, has patented accident prevention technology that will hold the opposite light if a vehicle is approaching the yellow light a t a rate to fast to stop before the light changes. Nestor also provides laptops for use in court by judges to view/show the video.

Councilman Doug McDowell noted the there is a flat per camera fee and the camera pays for itself as long as there are three violations a day. McDowell and Cowart saw a presentation on the technology in Savannah at a municipal conference.

“It’s technology that works, saves lives and prevents injuries,” Mayor Donald Walker said of the cameras. “The only thing we’re interested in is lives and safety.” Walker instructed Wagner to get with the City Attorney Jim Elliott to come up with a draft contract to have on the agenda for the next meeting.