PH Eyes Live Feed Red Light Cams
By BOBBY CHILVER Journal & Topics Reporter
Prospect Hts. is moving forward with a red light camera system that films live video 24 hours a day rather than just taking photos when a traffic violation is detected.
Chris Lai, director of I.T. for Chicago-based Safe Speed, presented the City Council with a short presentation on their services at Monday's regular meeting.
Most were in favor of the advantages of having a live video feed at certain intersections, pointing to live feeds as a valuable tool for the police department.
Safe Speed will now proceed with traffic studies at the chosen intersections of Hintz and Route 83 and Palatine and Schoenbeck. If deemed appropriate for the cameras, Safe Speed would have to apply for the cameras through the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT). The devices would likely be installed sometime next fall.
Prospect Hts. currently has one red light camera in place with RedSpeed at Milwaukee and River. But that camera only takes pictures when violations are detected. They also charge the city a $1,500 monthly fee and $30 per ticket violation.
Safe Speed charges $40 per ticket violation but no monthly fee. Lai pointed out that all installation costs are free to the city. After it goes active, the city receives a cut of every ticket.
"This is your program, your town, your funds," Lai said. "We always receive less than you do."
But while money is always important in Prospect Hts., officials were more focused on the safety aspect of the cameras.
Police officers can tap into the live feeds at any time during the day to see the intersection. They can also review tape to gain more information on recent accidents or nearby crimes. The live video recordings are saved for 30 days for such incidents.
With police already shorthanded, Mayor Dolly Vole pointed out that "this just gives us another tool to enhance what we don't have."
"Beyond safety, it's a tool for police," she said.
Aldermen also saw it as an upgrade over RedSpeed, for even more reasons that the lower costs.
Lai pointed out that as a local company, Safe Speed can deliver equipment and maintenance to intersections faster and cheaper.
He explained the system briefly, which runs much like similar red light cameras. When a violation is detected, like running a red light or not stopping on a right turn, pictures are taken of the violation and the car license plate. Safe Speed then determines if a fine should be issued and forwards the video to the police department for final say on whether or not a violation occurred.
The car owner is then given a notice and can view a 15 second video of the violation online. The video is available for a year to the violators. The person can then pay the fine online, by mail or at city hall. If they appeal, a date is set for a hearing. The city must only provide the hearing officer.
Ald. Richard Hamen was the only dissenting opinion on the camera system, citing privacy concerns of those in the intersection.
The ordinance was approved by a 4-1 vote and Safe Speed will move forward with studies of the two chosen intersections.
If given approval, Lai said the process of applying to IDOT usually takes about six to nine months.