Article Last Updated: 1/22/2006 03:50 AM
Paramount's red-light cameras in red
By Karen Robes, Staff writer
Long Beach Press Telegram
PARAMOUNT -- Traffic safety comes with a price.

More than a year after the City Council agreed to install its first red-light camera on Rosecrans and Orange avenues, a study presented to the council Tuesday showed fewer accidents at the intersection.

But the camera, the study found, does not make money for the city.

After calculating monthly operating expenses and estimating revenue garnered from ticketing, the city is expected to pay a net cost of $103,500 in 2005 and $78,000 in 2006 for a camera that captures motorists running red lights, said city Finance Director Jose Gomez.

The city took in an estimated $38,000 in revenue in the last nine recorded months, he said. For 2006, the city may receive about $57,000. Offenders are fined as much as $341.

But operating costs are exceeding revenue. Redflex, Inc., the company providing and maintaining the camera, initially charged the city $14,280 a month, but has since dropped that charge to $10,540 a month. The city also pays $8,000 a year to employ a Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputy to retrieve the camera's information and issue the citations.

The council approved the red-light camera Sept. 30, 2004, to deal with one of the city's most accident-prone intersections, not to make money, Councilman Manuel Guillen said.

"We knew from the start that, financially, it's going to be a disaster," he said. "But I think what we have to look at is, 'Are we accomplishing our goal (at that intersection)? How many people did slow down?"'

There has been a reduction in the number and severity of collisions within the intersection, City Engineer Bill Pagett said.

There were four accidents within the intersection from September 2003 to September 2004, and two collisions from September 2004 to September 2005.

The camera also proves to be less costly than placing a full-time traffic deputy at that corner, which could cost $190,000, officials said.

"I'm a fan of it, and I'll tell you why," Sheriff's Lt. James Wolak said. "I realize there's a cost to the city, but what it does it frees up our motorcycle officers to go where the concerns are."

In the end, the council agreed to continue the red-light camera program and add other lower-cost options including decoy cameras, entrance signs and reader signs that clock car speeds.

Karen Robes can be reached at karen.robes@presstelegram.com or (562) 499-1303.