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posted: 9/17/2013 5:31 PM

City says it lost money on red-light camera program

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  • LAURA STOECKER/lstoecker@dailyherald.comThis red-light camera -- where northbound Route 31 crosses Main Street in downtown St. Charles -- will soon be removed.

      LAURA STOECKER/lstoecker@dailyherald.comThis red-light camera -- where northbound Route 31 crosses Main Street in downtown St. Charles -- will soon be removed.

 
 

Commuters who utilize Route 31 on the way through St. Charles will soon no longer have a red-light camera to contend with while traveling across West Main Street.

And despite public perception of such cameras, city officials say they've never made a dime from the device.

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The city's five-year contract with Redflex Systems for its lone red-light camera expires Monday. Police Chief Jim Lamkin said the camera performed as intended by making one of the city's most dangerous intersections safer.

In 2008, there were 15 accidents at the intersection, more than one per month. Last year, there were nine accidents.

"We'd hope that it would never again rise to one of our top (accident) locations, but that will remain to be seen," Lamkin said. "It did reduce crashes. There's still a traffic signal there. People should be following the signal even without the camera."

Public perception of the cameras as strictly a cash cow for municipalities has fueled a slow decline in the use of the devices. But Lamkin said the cash register was never ringing for the city during its five-year experiment with its red-light camera.

Lamkin explained the there was both a monthly equipment cost to have the camera and an annual staff cost relating to about 150 hours spent by local police reviewing camera footage to verify or reject violations. The only way the city could ever make money from the camera would be to have so many violations that the ticket revenue surpassed the equipment and staff costs. Lamkin said that never happened.

"We operated at a loss pretty much from the beginning," Lamkin said. "We only approved right on red (citations) if it was so blatant that an officer observing it would have cited it. Otherwise we pretty much only ticketed straight through violations. That in itself has never paid for the equipment. We've never had enough violations."

Officers confirmed 353 traffic violations the first full year the camera was in use in 2008. Through more than eight months in 2013, there have only been 167 confirmed violations.

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