Commission wants more time for Lubbock red-light cameras
By Eric Finley | AVALANCHE-JOURNAL
Saturday, February 02, 2008
Story last updated at 2/2/2008 - 1:21 am
It's a split decision as the red-light camera issue goes back to the City Council.
Two advisory committees will make very different recommendations when the council meets Feb. 14 - one says take the cameras down; the other says leave them up.
The latest decision came Friday from the Citizens Traffic Commission, which voted to recommend the council leave the cameras up for a full year as originally planned.
The commission in 2007 recommended the council use cameras in hopes of making streets safer.
"Personally, I think it's working," said commission chairman David Miller, who shares the name but has no relation to Lubbock's mayor.
Whether the cameras are making streets safer or causing a spike in accidents citywide is a matter of debate. Opponents of the program jumped on a report in January detailing the first six months of the cameras' use, which showed an increase in accidents at the 12 intersections with cameras as well as across the city. Proponents point to the reduction in injuries at the intersections with cameras.
The city is no longer expecting to make a profit off the cameras this year, but because the equipment is owned by a company, the city won't lose any money on the program either. It costs the city to pay police officers about five overtime hours a week and city engineers about 10 hours a week in relation to the program.
The January report prompted the city's staff to ask the council to review the program. The council asked for recommendations from the traffic commission and the Citizens Photographic Traffic Signal Enforcement Commission, the committee that oversees the red-light camera program.
The camera committee voted against the program in January after determining the cameras aren't making Lubbock streets safer, saying they could be the explanation for the increase in traffic accidents.
But traffic commission members read the numbers differently. And they said, by a 5-2 vote, the city should stick with the program at least a year to gather more data.
"It behooves us to be patient and do this thing right," committee member Issac Garnett said.
Miller said he believes the cameras do make streets safer - accidents with injuries were up 25 percent at intersections without cameras but down 13 percent at intersections with cameras.
Miller called it a 38-point swing that's not insignificant.
Those who voted against waiting a year - Ronnie Sowell and Jimmy Thompson - are both former law enforcement officers who said they were concerned the cameras violate a person's right to due process. They also said residents were against the program.
The cameras snap a picture of a vehicle's license plate number if it runs a red light. The owner of the vehicle is then mailed a $75 fine, a civil offense that doesn't affect a person's driving record or insurance.
City officials have said they have little ability to enforce ticket collection.
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