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City removes lone red-light camera

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Posted: Thursday, December 3, 2009 12:00 am

The city's only red light camera at 59th and Peoria avenues has been removed following the completion of a two-year pilot project.

“The camera went off-line May 31 and has physically been removed,” Transportation Director Jamsheed Mehta said. “We are now in the process of compiling the data to present to council.”

Founder of the “Red Means Stop” campaign and Glendale resident, Frank Hinds, said he is very disappointed in the fact that Glendale, the fourth largest city in Arizona, has no photo enforcement in place and will most likely not have it in the near future.

“Red light running continues to be a significant danger to pedestrians as well as drivers and their passengers, and the photo enforcement technology has proven to be beneficial in saving lives,” said Hinds, whose daughter, Jennifer, was killed in 1997 at age 17 by a red-light runner in front of Ironwood High School.

“The man who caused the accident, killing my daughter, was cited only for running a red light and his fine was $105,” Hinds said.

House Bill 2327, known as “Jennifer's Law,” was passed by the Legislature and signed into law to result in stiffer fines.

The city contracted with Scottsdale-based American Traffic Solutions (ATS) to install its only camera and integrate transmission of the data to the police and court system.

Neighboring city Peoria has red light cameras at four intersections that operate in conjunction with a contract through Red Flex.

“We went through an RFP (request for proposal) process and chose ATS because at that time, they had the best proposal,” Mehta said.

After a search for a location, police narrowed the pilot project down to two intersections; the second choice was 59th Avenue and Bell Road.

The camera only snapped photos of motorists running red lights northbound on 59th Avenue at Peoria.

Hinds said, in his opinion, the intersection chosen for the pilot location was not the best.

“Certainly 59th Avenue and Bell Road, 51st Avenue and Cactus Road, or even 59th Avenue and Camelback are dangerous as well,” Hinds said. “Photo enforcement works well in surrounding cities like Peoria and Phoenix because our boundaries are rather seamless. It makes sense to me that Glendale should continue the concept of reducing crashes by installing intersection cameras, even though the pilot project data may not appear to support the idea of cameras reducing crashes. The use of cameras at high accident intersections does make sense.”

While they haven't completed statistics yet, Mehta did say they noticed a dramatic drop in violations after the first two-month warning period.

“That would suggest drivers were aware of the presence of the camera and stopping at the red light,” Mehta said. “By the time we started issuing tickets, violations had already dropped.”

Vice Mayor Manny Martinez, who has been a strong advocate for having red light cameras in the city, said he thought that at least having one was better than nothing.

“At least it was a start,” Martinez said. “I understand we should be getting some data, hopefully next month. I read there was a program offered now that bases their fee on the traffic fine and there is no cost to the city. I don't know why we wouldn't do it.”

Hinds said he applauds Martinez for not giving up on the concept of photo enforcement.

“For things to change; however, it will require other councilmember's to join him,” Hinds said.

One member of council, Mayor Elaine Scruggs, said she is opposed to the use of camera enforcement for several reasons.

“In the State of Arizona any type of citation for photo radar or red light camera is not considered legal until it is served in person by a process server, so if we are going to use this camera enforcement, we need to change the state law,” Scruggs said.

Hiring process servers can be costly to cities, Scruggs said, and servers will make three attempts and only go 35 miles making it unfair to those who live within the city.

“I also favor the use of police officers to do traffic enforcement because once a driver has been stopped for erratic or reckless driving, there are all sorts of other infractions that can be cited, such as outstanding warrants, drugs, and such,” Scruggs said. “When we first investigated the use of cameras, we talked with the courts and learned for an average ticket cited, at least two other offenses were also issued.”

Cameras are also placed in locations, she said, such as a recent photo radar van she spotted on Interstate 10 at a busy merge point where people were trapped in traffic being snapped by the camera.

“I feel greater safety is achieved if we use police officers,” Scruggs said. “I think the cameras are more to do with generating revenue than making the streets safer.”

Reach the reporter at ejackman@star-times.com, or 623-847-4615.

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