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updated: 2/15/2012 8:41 AM

Red-light cameras not worth it to one Aurora alderman

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The 7.5 percent decrease in accidents at Aurora's five intersections with red-light cameras actually amounted to only 10 fewer crashes in 2011 than 2010, according to Aurora police statistics.

Alderman Rick Lawrence said he doesn't think that level of accident reduction is worth the $1 million the city has paid Redflex Traffic Systems of Arizona to run the camera system, which he says should be discontinued.

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But Mayor Tom Weisner's office is satisfied with the cameras from a safety perspective because "any accident prevented is potentially a life saved," Carie Anne Ergo, chief management officer, said.

"At this point, there are no plans to discontinue the use of red-light cameras," she said.

Lawrence asked police Chief Greg Thomas to convert the 7.5 percent decrease into raw numbers last week during Thomas' yearly presentation on red-light enforcement. But Thomas said he did not immediately know how many fewer crashes took place at the five intersections where cameras are operating.

Thomas later provided Lawrence with data showing four of the five intersections with cameras experienced a total of 15 fewer crashes, but one intersection had five more crashes in 2011 than in 2010.

Red-light cameras are operating at Commons Drive and New York Street; Eola Road and New York Street; Farnsworth Avenue and Molitor Road; Farnsworth Avenue and New York Street; and Ogden Avenue and Eola Road.

Crashes decreased by eight at Eola and New York and by five at Farnsworth and New York, according to police statistics. Commons and New York and Ogden and Eola each saw one fewer crash in 2011 than in 2010.

Crashes increased by five at Farnsworth and Molitor, but Thomas said this intersection should not be considered the same as the others because its camera system was not functioning much of the year.

Lawrence said the decrease in crashes can't be directly attributed to the cameras. He said he asked for the raw numbers so he could calculate the cost of the dip in accidents.

"This would be helpful data when comparing the cost to the benefit," he wrote in an email reminding Thomas of his request.

Since Aurora began its red-light camera program in mid-2009, the city has received $1.5 million in revenue from tickets, but has paid Redflex about $1,004,000, leaving a $521,969 net gain, according to figures Thomas provided.

Factoring in staff time of city electrical workers and police officers, Lawrence said the program isn't financially worthwhile. He also noted crashes citywide have increased by one since the installation of cameras.

In 2009, 4,941 crashes were reported in Aurora. In 2010, that number dropped about 100 to 4,842, but it was back up to 4,942 in 2011, according to police statistics.

Thomas and Ergo said the purpose of the red-light camera program is not to make money, but to decrease crashes, and both said numbers show it's succeeding.

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