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Huntington Beach rejects red-light cameras

June 4, 2009 |  3:01 pm

Redlight At a time when red-light cameras are proliferating across Southern California, Huntington Beach is bucking the trend.

The cameras have become a controversial part of the streetscape in recent years, taking photos of drivers who run through red lights and sending them tickets. Backers argue the cameras improve safety and bring cities needed revenues.

But Surf City’s police chief, Ken Small, isn’t so sure.

He told the Huntington Beach City Council that adding cameras to intersections around the city could increase traffic accidents rather than prevent them. Some business leaders in town are also speaking out against the traffic cameras, including some car dealers who fear the cameras might drive customers away.

 “It just didn’t make any sense,” said Small, whose department spent several months studying the issue.

One such intersection under consideration was Talbert Avenue and Beach Boulevard, where 19 motorists had run a red light, but only two red light accidents had occurred when looking at the intersection's history.

“When we started looking, a lot of [the violators] were people we normally don’t give tickets to,” Small said, adding that some of the violations included motorists who failed to make complete stops before making a right turn.

The Huntington Police Department in conjunction with Redflex Traffic Systems began a study in March on the affect of installing cameras at 18 of the proposed 20 intersections. At least nine of those were along the highly traveled Beach Boulevard, a street from which several businesses and car dealerships often draw customers.

Small said revenue from the violations would also not cover the monthly cost of maintaining a $6,000 camera. Some intersections that would require four cameras would cost the city $24,000 a month to maintain the cameras.

Others in Huntington Beach also oppose the installation of cameras.

“I call them scam-ras” said Ocean View School Board President Norm Westwell. The cameras, he said, only “photograph the ending results of [an] accident.”

The City Council decided not to address the issue after the chief delivered his report.

-- Ruben Vives


More on red-light cameras from Times staff writer Rich Connell's investigation:


How red light cameras work

Safety or revenue: A Times investigation

Photo: Los Angeles Times