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  1. #1
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    Default Red-light camera plan advances - Springfield, MO

    Red-light camera plan advances

    City says it will go forward despite a legislative effort to ban the devices.

    Jenny Fillmer and James Goodwin
    News-Leader

    Despite a proposed state law banning red-light cameras in Missouri, Springfield city officials are moving forward with plans to bring the cameras to the city.

    The Springfield City Council will take public comment Monday on a bill authorizing use of the cameras to ticket motorists photographed running red lights in the city's most dangerous intersections. The council may vote on the bill Jan. 23.

    City traffic engineer Earl Newman said red-light violations are a chronic problem in Springfield, occurring once every 11 minutes at Campbell Avenue and Battlefield Road alone.

    City statistics from 2004 showed broadside crashes — the kind associated with red-light violations — cost Springfield motorists $28 million, almost twice as much as 2004's reported violent and property crimes.

    Red-light cameras, Newman said, are a safety tool that would help police enforce a traffic law that's otherwise difficult to address.

    "Most of the tickets written for running red lights are written after the crash has occurred," said Newman, assistant director of Springfield Public Works.

    Currently, Newman said, it takes two officers positioned at different spots in an intersection to verify red-light violations. And pursuit of violators can be dangerous, often requiring an officer to also run a red light.

    In cities where the cameras are used, red-light violations generally decline by 50 percent, said Mark Burkey, an economics professor at the North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University who has studied the issue. Burley noted that it's not yet clear whether the cameras actually contribute to road safety.

    A 2005 Springfield Police Department survey shows 64 percent of city residents support photo red light enforcement, up from 59 percent support in 2004.

    But not everyone is convinced the safety benefits outweigh the drawbacks of red-light cameras.

    Sen. Jason Crowell, a Cape Girardeau Republican, has introduced legislation that would prohibit the use of red-light cameras.

    His intent, he said Wednesday, was to start a discussion about what he sees as negatives associated with the technology — granting private companies law enforcement authority to write traffic tickets, for example, or allowing a photograph taken by a traffic camera to be the only evidence used to convict a driver in court.

    "The way that cities are currently doing these tickets is basically this: They send you the ticket and you're guilty until you prove yourself innocent," said Crowell, who is also an attorney. "And that's wrong."

    He plans to amend his legislation to allow for traffic cameras but also include restrictions on their use.

    For one thing, Crowell sees more legitimacy in the use of video cameras instead of still cameras, he said.

    "I see merit in the use of traffic cameras, but I also see the potential for a lot of bad things happening," Crowell said. "And I just want to balance the two."

    Springfield City Attorney Dan Wichmer said no decision has yet been made on the type of cameras Springfield would use.

    But, he emphasized, Springfield will differ from cities that have faced problems with the technology because police personnel will review each photograph before a ticket is issued.

    "We wouldn't agree to any system that took away control from police or public works," said Wichmer.

    Here's how the system would work, according to Wichmer:

    When a traffic signal turns red, the camera is turned on. Any activity detected by a sensor in the intersection will cause the camera, mounted above the traffic light, to shoot a video or still photos of the rear of the car, where the license plate can be seen.

    The camera company makes the video or photos available to the Police Department via the Internet. Police review the evidence and decide whether a violation has occurred and whether to mail a ticket to the vehicle's registered owner.

    The recipient of the ticket can also view the video or photo online. They can also pay the ticket online, or decide to contest it in court. Court is also where an owner of a vehicle would go if someone else was driving his or her car at the time of violation.

    Red light violations carry a $100 fine in Springfield, plus court costs.

    Right turns on red, movements needed to clear space for emergency vehicles and other legal moves caught on camera "are weeded out by police officers," said Wichmer. "They review the pictures."

    Wichmer said the city would monitor the proposed state legislation but would not allow it to hold up city business.

    "The council stated an intent to move forward on red-light cameras last fall," said Wichmer. "We don't know what the legislation is going to do, but if we waited around for every bill that's filed, we would never get anything done."

    Wichmer added that he doubted the bill would survive without some major revisions.

    Doug Burlison, active with the Greene County Libertarians, said he supports the law enforcement aspect of red-light cameras. But, he added, many Libertarians would have a problem if the cameras were meant to simply make money for the city.

    "The risk that they are more of a revenue-generating mechanism than a safety mechanism, that's of concern to us," said Burlison. "I understand the motivations behind this effort, but there does need to be safeguards."
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  2. #2
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    Default

    Springfield

    City picks red-light camera vendor

    Company gets council's OK, could begin installation by mid-January.

    Jane Huh
    News-Leader

    StoryChat Post Comment

    The Springfield City Council on Monday night approved a vendor to install cameras at major intersections as a way to catch drivers who run red lights.

    Norcross, Ga.-based LaserCraft may install its first camera by mid-January. Others will follow over a period of several months.



    One resident voiced concerns about the possibility of yellow-light intervals getting shorter and speculated on whether the system would be designed to catch more red-light violators and therefore earn a profit from the fines.

    Earl Newman, assistant director of public works, assured the council that the vendor would be prohibited from tinkering with signal light times.

    Councilman John Wylie expressed support for the photo red-light enforcement. He said he has seen motorists run red lights at the Glenstone and Battlefield intersection multiple times.

    "It doesn't get any better, it's just getting worse," Wylie said.

    The council approved the idea of catching red-light violators by using automated cameras in January despite concerns from critics who say the enforcement method is an invasion of privacy.

    Now, it appears the rubber will hit the road. LaserCraft will work with local officials to conduct studies on 15 intersections.

    "They've indicated that they're ready to kick off first thing (today)," Newman said.

    After a yearlong search, LaserCraft was the selection committee's top choice out of three vendors.

    LaserCraft also is the maker of the hand-held lasers Springfield police use to measure speeding, said Lt. Jay Huff.

    There is no overall estimate of cost yet as LaserCraft and the city must first determine how many cameras will be needed. LaserCraft proposed a monthly fee of $4,195 per direction (east, west, south, north) monitored at each intersection.

    "It'll take six months to really see a reduction," Newman said.

    Newman and Huff said there will be public forums to explain the system to residents. Camera testing at an intersection may begin by the end of this week, Newman said.

    With more than 240 traffic signals in Springfield, putting up cameras at 16 intersections is the goal, Newman said.

    According to city crash statistics, in 2004, three fatalities and 700 injuries were the results of red-light violations. In 2005, out of 8,000 crashes, 850 involved red-light violations.

    In other business, the council:

    -ĘVoted to adopt an ordinance requiring any multichannel video service provider, including AT&T, to adhere to the city's negotiated schedule before gaining access to city's right-of-way.

    -ĘVoted to enter into an agreement with the Missouri Development Finance Board to borrow $3.1 million on a short-term basis to gain title rights to the Heer's building. Developer Vaughn Prost and a handful of others spoke against the ordinance. The ordinance will allow the city to explore doing business with other developers concerning the redevelopment of the historic building.
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  3. #3
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    Default red light cameras

    Red light cameras are a bad idea.

 

 

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