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Some cities say they'll keep red-light cameras operating

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Some cities in Southern California remain strongly committed to the red-light camera enforcement, despite the decision by Los Angeles this week to end the program.

The Los Angeles City Council voted 13-0 to kill the program after disclosures that paying fines for camera-issued tickets is considered "voluntary" by city officials. That outraged some motorists who have paid their tickets.

But other cities stand behind the program.

Interactive - How red light video cameras work In Beverly Hills, where the red-light camera program has been in place since 1996, Lt. Mark Rosen of the traffic bureau said the city is also looking at expanding the operation.

The program brings in gross revenues of more than $150,000 a month -– of which $53,000 goes to the vendor -– and red-light violations have declined at the intersections where it has been put in place, he said.

"The whole idea behind the program is public safety, so you can't just look at revenues," he said. "... We feel that we are experiencing a reduction in accidents, a reduction in citations, and we are experiencing a positive revenue flow."

Rosen said Beverly Hills has had a high success rate by pursuing offenders through collections, but that he would prefer to see the courts notify the DMV when defendants fail to appear on red-light tickets.

"The program would certainly be improved with cooperation from the court system," he said.

In Santa Clarita, where the red-light camera program launched in 2004, city spokeswoman Gail Ortiz said the city gets net revenues of $600,000 to $700,000 a year through its share of the $480 tickets, and the seven intersections where the lights were installed have seen a 64% decrease in broadside collisions and a 71% decrease in red-light violations since 2004.

"If anything, we would contemplate adding new [lights], but at this point, we're going to leave it as it is," Ortiz said.

Other cities reached the same conclusion as L.A. and have killed their red-light camera programs. El Monte, for instance, ditched its program in 2008 after a comparison of traffic collisions at intersections with and without cameras found "no statistical difference" in the number of collisions, according to a memo from then-Police Chief Ken Weldon to the city manager.

The city did not cite enforcement issues as a major concern. Net revenue from the program when it was discontinued was about $2,000 a month, but Weldon noted that the program was unpopular and that the man-hours devoted to enforcement could be used elsewhere.

The red-light cameras in Long Beach went dark in December while the city reviews the pros and cons of continuing the program.

But a number of other cities in Los Angeles County that have the programs in place reported that despite the lack of teeth for enforcement, they are pleased with their programs and have had no problem collecting on red-light tickets.

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-- Abby Sewell

Photo: A red-light camera at La Brea Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard in Los Angeles. Credit: Glenn Koenig /Los Angeles Times

 
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L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
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