|Davenport Starts Red-Light Camera Program|
|Written by John Perreault|
|Tuesday, 02 November 2004 18:00|
Davenport in August became the first among the Quad Cities to implement red-light cameras at intersections.
The City of Davenport has red light cameras at five different intersections: Kimberly Road and Elmore Avenue; Kimberly Road and Welcome Way; Kimberly Road and Brady Street; West 35th and Harrison streets; and West Fourth and Division streets.
According to Davenport Police Chief Michael R. Bladel, those intersections were chosen because of their dangerousness. A 2001 study by State Farm Insurance said that the intersections of Brady Street and Kimberly Road and Elmore Avenue and Kimberly Road were among the 10 most-dangerous in Iowa.
“Right-angle crashes are the cause of a good number of injuries and deaths in America,” Bladel said. “These type of accidents are usually generated by someone running a red light.”
From mid-August through the last day of September, 20 citations for running red lights were issued because of the red-light cameras, Bladel said.
Although Davenport is the first municipality in the Quad Cities with red-light cameras, Bettendorf has requested bids for a similar program. By state law, no Illinois cities other than Chicago can use red-light cameras.
Davenport has not invested any money in the installation and maintenance of the red-light cameras. According to Bladel, Transol USA Incorporated paid for the cameras themselves, their installation, and their maintenance. The city has spent $3,000 on traffic-safety education.
Based out of Australia, Transol is a company that specializes in advanced traffic-safety and multimedia technologies. Bill Kroske, vice president of Transol USA, said that the red-light cameras are leased to Davenport under a five-year contract. He added that once the contract expires, the city has the option to renew, with no fees involved. If Davenport does not wish to renew the contract, the cameras would be removed.
Davenport charges cars that run red lights $65 for each violation caught by the cameras. Of that amount, $32 goes to Transol, and $33 will go into the city’s general fund.
“Once a large enough funding stream is assured though the enforcement program to support any processing costs and an education/enforcement uniformed traffic officer, I’ll submit a request for an additional officer,” Bladel said. “This would then start a self-funded traffic-safety education and enforcement program.”
The Davenport Police Department’s role in the red-light program, Bladel said, is to advocate traffic safety, review footage captured by the camera, and issue citations.
“These cameras will never replace enforcement officers,” Bladel said. “They will never replace uniformed officers, or the policing of the community.”
Bladel said a red-light-camera citation is similar to a parking ticket because the vehicle’s owner is being charged, not the driver. While pictures of the driver could be taken, Bladel said that it would be considered an invasion of privacy.
At each intersection where red-light cameras are installed, a sign that reads “Red Light Photo Enforced” is displayed.
If an individual runs a red light, Transol’s digital equipment captures 200 pictures to give police a clear depiction of the violation.
The issuing officer in Davenport chooses three pictures that clearly show the violation taking place. A photo is chosen of the vehicle behind the stop bar, and then in the middle of the intersection. The third photo is of the vehicle’s license plate.
Once a violation has been clearly documented, the police department’s issuing officer will then send to the vehicle’s owner a “notice of violation,” which contains full-size images of the offense.
Individuals will have the option to appeal the citation, Bladel said. Before a decision is made regarding an appeal, Bladel suggested, the vehicle’s owner should visit with the issuing officer, so the video/photos of the incident can be reviewed. If a person refuses to pay, the city issues a civil infraction for an upcoming court date.
Individuals found altering a license plate to avoid a red-light citation may lose their vehicle registration, Bladel said.
Kroske added that altering one’s license plate is against the law because an officer needs to be able to identify the owner of a vehicle. He also said that infrared is integrated into the red-light-camera technology, making alteration very difficult.
“This is a real win-win for the community as we see it,” Bladel said, “using the best technology at hand.”
Bettendorf Police Chief Phil Redington said that a proposal would be made before the end of the year for one red-light camera. He said the camera would be portable and would be deployed at different intersections depending on the number of red-light violations and accidents.
Funding for the red-light camera would come from the city’s budget, and not from a third-party company such as Transol, Redington said. He added that $60,000 has already been allocated for the project, pending the city council’s approval.
Redington said that the camera would be a trial run to see how effective the program is for the city. “There may be more than one red light camera down the road, but that would not be for a couple of years anyway,” he said.
Moline and Rock Island are not participating in a red-light-camera program. Melissa Savage of the National Conference of State Legislatures said that according to state law, “only cities with populations of 1 million or more can operate red-light cameras in the state of Illinois.”
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