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Debate whether to keep red light cameras

April 19, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
The debate over red light cameras took center stage Tuesday at the Los Angeles police commission meeting.

L.A.'s contract with camera vendor American Traffic Solutions ends this month. Up for debate is whether it is the most effective tool for public safety.

"It is $480," said L.A. driver Luis Garcia. "I think it's ridiculous. Get rid of them."

The L.A. police commission is split over the issue.

"I don't really have enough information to answer that question," said L.A. Police Commissioner Richard E. Drooyan.

The city council makes the final call, but they put that decision off until next Tuesday.

"Photo red light offers a technology that we can't equal by deployment of motor officer or patrol officers at the same cost point," said Asst. LAPD Chief Michel Moore.

The LAPD said the 32 locations produce more than 40,000 tickets a year, with a total profit in 2010 of more than $1 million.

"When you cycle in the cost of equipment and its installation in the first years of this program, that number can quickly zero out, and can definitely become a deficit of a half million to a million dollars," said Moore.

"If the cameras were working, a lot of those tickets wouldn't be issued because drivers would be changing their behavior," said Jay Beeber from Safe Streets L.A.

Advocates said the real answer is longer yellow lights. Loma Linda Mayor Rhoades Rigsby said his city extended yellow signals by one second.

"The number of tickets for straight-ahead violations dropped by 90 percent the day after we lengthened the yellow lights," said Rigsby.

Last December Loma Linda turned off their red light cameras altogether, something Rigsby calls great politics.

"If a politician wants to be admired in their community, get rid of red light cameras," said Rigsby.

Most seem to think that the city council will pass a temporary extension of the current contract that would go for no more than 90 days. It would give enough time to decide whether to keep the current vendor or scrap the program all together.

Opponents said they may resort to the ballot box if red light cameras remain on city streets.