Red light camera system behind schedule
Red light runners catch a break -- for now
KTRK By Cynthia Cisneros

(1/10/06 - KTRK/HOUSTON) - The city of Houston was supposed to start ticketing red light runners at the beginning of the new year, but there has been a delay in figuring out which company would run the red light cameras. Hundreds of motorists have run red lights at the test sites. Houston police also say what's most disturbing is the circumstances of the violations.
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Many Houstonians consider running red lights more of a necessity than a violation. That's a distinction that continues to go officially unchecked. Only two out of four red light test cameras remain installed. The rest have been taken down.

"That's good news," said motorist Booker T. Dickerson. "You don't have to worry about getting a ticket if you run the light."

Back in November there was much fanfare about the newly installed red light test cameras. They were to photograph vehicles as they ran through red lights. The motorists would then receive a warning in the mail.

Two months later, the system was to be officially sending out citations to violators. Houston police admit the testing period took longer than expected.

HPD Lt. Robert Manzo explained, "The testing period has ended. Some of the vendors have started removing their equipment from the intersections."

The red light camera testing ended last Friday and the results are staggering. At just four intersections in midtown and downtown, over 2,800 vehicles were photographed running red lights. Of that number, Houston police determined 633 motorists committed clear violations. Those violators were mailed warning citations. HPD says that's an average of 20 vehicles a day at each location.

"(It) seems like an awful lot," said driver Terri Gaskin. "Seems very dangerous. There's a lot of people crossing the streets around here all the time and I think it's very dangerous."

The test cameras remain at two downtown locations. If you are photographed running these red lights, you won't get a ticket -- yet.

Motorist Kimberly Gallinston said, "If they're not going to be on officially, then it's just a waste of time and money."

"It is a good idea," said driver Joann Perrett. "There are pedestrians walking and if they don't care and get a ticket in the mail maybe they'll learn their lesson."

HPD expects to select a vendor and officially make their recommendation to city council this month. HPD's goal is to have at least 10 of the systems in operation by February and expand that number to 50 intersections sometime in March.

The two busy downtown intersections where the test cameras remain are Milam at Jefferson and San Jacinto at Texas. Violators will get a warning. There's no word yet on where the permanent cameras will be placed.

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