Kenner police ask City Council to consider speed cameras
by Mary Sparacello, The Times-Picayune Friday July 10, 2009, 12:03 PM
The Kenner City Council is considering installing cameras to catch speeders after a receiving a request from Police Chief Steve Caraway. "The No. 1 concern of citizens is speeding in neighborhoods," Caraway said. "I think the council needs to look at all options."
He said he sent a letter Thursday asking city officials to consider stationary or mobile cameras to catch speeders. The letter and the council's plan to look into it became public at Thursday's council meeting, after a handful of residents voiced opposition to the proposal.
Councilman Joe Stagni had mentioned the possibility of neighborhood speed cameras at a previous council meeting, and residents approached the council Thursday to ask that the idea be dropped.
"I think they're basically a scam," resident Richard Brown said. "This is just a poor way for us to be raising money."
"Innocent people get ticketed," Eddie Bernier said. "Let's not go down this road."
Residents argued that the cameras would not prevent wrecks and have been outlawed in some other areas.
But Caraway said the cameras would cut down on wrecks and that speed is a factor in most of the 4,500 wrecks investigated every year in Kenner. He said the Police Department has five officers assigned to the traffic division, not enough to combat all the speeding in the city.
Bernier wrote the dissenting minority report last year for a committee of Kenner citizens that studied the possibility of installing cameras at red lights. The panel ultimately , recommended the red-light cameras be installed. The council never voted on the issue, however, and it was effectively dropped.
City Attorney Keith Conley told residents that city officials would "thoroughly research" speed cameras, just as they did red-light cameras. "I'm sure it's going to be well thought-out and planned," he said.
Council members stressed that no decisions have been made.
"It's just in the discussion phase right now," said Councilman Kent Denapolis, who raised the possibility that the cameras be placed only in school zones.
"It's so preliminary right now," Councilman Ben Zahn said. If the cameras are approved, the money would pay for capital projects for the Police Department, he said.
He and other council members said the cameras would be put into place to make drivers safer, not to make money from tickets. "Money is a byproduct of what they do," Stagni said, adding that at a community meeting of 53 residents in the Westgate subdivision, people supported the cameras. He told opponents he is open-minded but that there is a speeding problem in neighborhoods.
"Is there a problem? There is a problem," he said. "Do we continue to have speeding in our neighborhoods? We do."
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Mary Sparacello can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 504.467.1726.