The Lufkin Daily News

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The city council is considering the installation of cameras to catch people running red lights at some Lufkin intersections.

Mark Hammer of Traffipax pitched his idea for the system to the Lufkin City Council Tuesday evening. Traffipax Photo Speed Enforcement Solution is a photo radar system using Doppler radar detection and imaging equipment to photograph vehicles.

The device records the license plate and date and time of the violation, the street, the measured speed limit and the posted speed limit.

"I think it's a very good program," said Lufkin Police Chief Larry Brazil.

Brazil said drivers running red lights is a big problem in Lufkin and that the system would help tackle it.

Currently, police have to be there in person to see drivers running red lights, said Paul Parker, city manager. This is not always possible, and it can take two police officers to catch the person, he said.

Also, catching people who run red lights is one of the most dangerous assignments police undertake, Parker said.

Using the proposed method, violators would be fined $100 — with $38 going to Traffipax and $62 to the city.

This fine would not be recorded by the insurance company, Parker said.

"It is a civil violation, not a criminal violation," he said. "It functions the same way as a parking ticket."

People who don't pay tickets would be assessed a $25 fine, increasing by $25 more every 30 days over a 90-day period, Hammer explained. After 90 days, the fine would be sent to a collection agency.

"Most people pay their fine within the first 30 days," he said.

The point, Hammer said, is not to make money, but to ensure people drive safely and don't run red lights.

Before sending out fines, he said, a police officer from the Lufkin Police Department would verify the photographs to check for true violations. People will be able to appeal the tickets, he said.

While the system costs several thousand dollars to set up, the company would not charge the city for it, Hammer said, because the company "wants to have a long-term relationship with the city."

Such programs, he said, have helped cut deaths and numbers of people running red lights.

Before the city can go ahead with installing these cameras, Parker said, a study and analysis would be done of intersections and areas having the most problems.

"Some of them are FM 819 and U.S. 59 and Timberland Drive and Chestnut," he said.

"Pershing is another street that has this problem," said Mayor Jack Gorden.

It will be late summer or fall by the time these cameras go into action, should city council give the nod, Parker said. But, he said, people running red lights is a "severe problem" that needs to be addressed.

"The goal is not to catch people, but prevent them from running red lights and killing each other," Parker said.