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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Use of Red-light cameras still a local controversy

L-R: Sign on Hillcrest near the intersection of Babcock and Hillcrest warning drivers to slow down before running a red light

The Texas House voted to end the use of the red-light cameras in Texas by 2009 unless a future legislature chooses to extend the use.

House lawmakers have consistently voted against the use of red light cameras but have been unable to stop them to date.

Balcones Heights is the lastest suburb to install the cameras. An amendment by State Rep. Carl Islett would require cities to study whether the use cuts down on accidents and report the number of citations.

At the Balcones Heights Council meeting Monday, May 14th, Police Chief Bill Stannard presented figures that indicated in a two month period, over 1,800 citiations were issued to violators. He pointed out that for every 100 tickets cited, approximately 5 were being contested, but could not say definitively whether the cases were thrown out, or upheld. He also noted that from March to April the number of violators decreased by 7%, indicating the red light cameras were working.

Neither Stannard nor Mayor Jim Craven could produce figures on the number of fines paid to the City. Stannard pointed out it would be months before good data could be compiled. Councilman Steve Walker in his last meeting as Councilman questioned the fact no statistics were available. Walker, the lone Council critic of the installation of red-light cameras, voted against the measure citing that the violation was civil not criminal and there was no mechanism in place to force violators to pay the fine.

Councilman Lamar Gillian stressed that the question was about safety and not how many violators paid the fines. He said he didn't care about the money, but only the safety issue, referencing a personal experience where he was nearly hit in an intersection by a red-light runner.

In an interview on the Jack Riccardi talk show on KTSA, Tuesday, May 15th, Walker concluded that no statisitics equated to violators not paying the fines.

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