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Thursday, March 22, 2007

B.H. Red Light Cameras ready for duty

Jim Forsyth (photo)
WOAI Radio

Following a thirty day test period that nabbed near one thousand red light runners, Balcones Heights is ready to grab for the cash. The four red light cameras in the northwest side suburbs will be turned on Saturday night at midnight, 1200 WOAI's Charity McCurdy reports today.

"People hopefully have gotten used to the idea that these intersections will be monitored by red light cameras," Balcones Heights Mayor Jim Craven said.

The cameras have been erected at four locations in Balcones Heights, three along Fredericksburg Road, and a fourth on the east side of Babcock and Hillcrest, which is the suburb's western boundary.

Craven says in the thirty days since ATS Systems of Phoenix installed and turned on the cameras, some 1,000 motorists have gotten warnings in the mail.
"Midnight Saturday-Sunday morning, we will start sending out citations," Craven said. The fine will be $148, about $40 of that will be profit for ATS Systems. There is no legal requirement that the tickets be paid. "We want to be able to measure whether, over time, the cameras have an effect," Craven said. "I fully expect we will see a decline in violations over time."

He could see a rapid decline in citations if a bill making its way through the Texas Legislature succeeds. It would outlaw the use of any photographic device to enforce traffic laws.

At a hearing in Austin Wednesday, Houston activist Michael Kubash said red light cameras are more about profit than about safety. "These vendors are making money, "Kubosh said. "That's why these red light cameras have taken off around the country. It's a money grab scheme."

Kubash is traveling Texas to have himself photographed and ticketed running red lights in all cities that have cameras, and then his attorney brother is filing lawsuits against those cities. Kubosh says Balcones Heights is definitely on his hit list. No word on how much defending this lawsuit will cost the suburb.

"Photo enforcement reduces public safety and endangers the citizens," he said.
Other measures pending in the Legislature would limit the use of cameras, or strip the cities that put them up of the revenue from the cameras.

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