Posted on Tue, Nov. 21, 2006
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Hallandale wants to turn the focus on red-light runners
Unmanned cameras may one day soon be snapping photos of red-light runners in Hallandale Beach.

Hallandale Beach commissioners, taking their cues from other cities in Florida, want to look into using unmanned cameras to catch drivers running red lights.

Commissioners on Monday asked the city manager to research a plan to install the cameras in the city to catch violators.

''I fully support this idea,'' said Commissioner Bill Julian. ``Whatever we can do . . . Let's put the cameras up as fast as we can.''

The cameras would snap photos of vehicles running red lights and racing through intersections after the light changed. A fine would be issued to the vehicle owner. Fines could be appealed to a special hearing officer.

''If we can stop people from running red lights, we'll make our city a safer place and reduce accidents,'' said Hallandale Beach Police Chief Thomas Magill. ``We're not trying to punish people, we're trying to educate them.''

A private company would install and monitor the cameras at selectedintersections and take a portion of the revenue from the fines, so the system would not cost the city, Magill said.

The company would e-mail a picture of the incident to a police officer, who would then decide whether to send the ticket.

Cities across Florida are looking into installing the cameras, Magill said.

An opinion from the attorney general, written in July 2005, questioned whether local governments have the power to fine drivers based on images from automatic cameras.

Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist, now governor-elect, said cities can install cameras to alert drivers they have run a red light, but can't issue a citation from the image.

Cities, like Pembroke Pines and the panhandle city of Gulf Breeze, adopted laws even after the decision, saying municipalities have the authority to issue civil punishments.

Last October, Pembroke Pines commissioners approved use of unmanned cameras to catch and ticket red-light runners.

Next month, the city will ask for proposals from companies interested in installing and operating the cameras, according to City Attorney Sam Goren.

For the first six months, Pembroke Pines will issue warnings to drivers. After that, $125 civil fine will be issued for each violation.

Hallandale Beach City Manager Mike Good said he will speak with Traffipax, the company that installed Gulf Breeze's cameras, about making a presentation to the commission. In Gulf Breeze, the Florida Department of Transportation refused to let cameras be placed on its land, so the cameras were installed on private property. Hallandal Beach Mayor Joy Cooper said she had already spoken with the owner of the Diplomat Mall, on East Hallandale Beach Boulevard, about placing a camera there.

''I think it's time we take the bull by the horns and ask staff to look at it,'' Cooper said.