E. Cleveland may add traffic cameras
Revenue wouldn't erase shortfall, mayor says
Saturday, February 18, 2006
Leila Atassi
Plain Dealer Reporter

East Cleveland- This troubled city might become the first Northeast Ohio suburb to outfit intersections with red-light and speeding cameras.

City Council will decide Tuesday whether to install the video enforcement system, which snaps photos and shoots video of speeders and red-light runners, allowing police to ticket the owners of the cars later. The tickets are civil infractions, which don't result in points on licenses.

Cleveland installed similar cameras late last year and expects to collect $6 million in fines this year. Akron has cameras ticketing speeders in school zones.

East Cleveland officials said it is too early to know where the cameras would be put or how much money the cameras will make for the city. But the program would cost East Cleveland nothing to install and operate, and the city would get to keep all of the fines collected for the first year and between 60 percent and 70 percent in subsequent years, according to the proposed ordinance.

However, Mayor Eric Brewer said money from the red-light camera system would not even come close to offsetting the nearly $600,000 shortfall created last week when voters rejected an increase in trash collection fees.

"The revenue from this program is not part of my equation," Brewer said, referring to his new task of figuring out how to save about $50,000 a month as a result of the voter referendum.

"Any financial gains will be short-term. Revenue will eventually drop off once drivers begin to anticipate the presence of the cameras and govern themselves accordingly."

Brewer said money collected would help pay for the city's crossing guards, which cost about $80,000 a year. But more important, he said, is the system's value to an overburdened Police Department.

"It will give me some semblance of traffic enforcement, so my officers can focus on high-demand areas where people are calling about nuisance crimes like loitering, noise and loud music," he said.

Brewer said the city has not yet decided upon a red-light camera company. But Council President Gary Norton said a representative from Rhode Island-based Nestor Traffic Systems, which operates Akron's red-light camera program, has presented information to council members and administrators.

"I expect opposition if we decide to do it, because no one likes to get caught speeding or running a red light," Norton said. "And I expect opposition if we decide not to do it, because we'd be losing revenue and missing out on a chance to make our streets a little safer. I think I'm on the side of revenue and safety."

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter:

latassi@plaind.com, 216-999-4549