Future uncertain for measures to ban red-light cameras

This story has been updated from its original version to clarify details of the federal bribery case against former state Sen. Martin Sandoval.

The Illinois House approved a bill earlier this year that would ban red-light cameras in non-home rule communities, and state Rep. David McSweeney said he still has hope it will be approved by the Senate.

McSweeney says red-light cameras are all about profit, while proponents like the village of Palatine - to whom this bill doesn't apply - say they are about public safety.

McSweeney also introduced a bill to completely ban red-light cameras across the state, but the COVID-19 pandemic prevented it from being called for a vote by the time the legislature adjourned in May.

Additionally, state Sen. Mattie Hunter, a Democrat from Chicago, introduced a bill in the Senate that also would ban such cameras across the state.

The legislature is scheduled to reconvene Nov. 17 for its veto session, but it's unclear how much work will get done, said McSweeney, who is not running for reelection.

State law allows red-light cameras to be used only in eight counties - Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, Madison, McHenry, St. Clair and Will - and 98 communities use them on state roads, plus Chicago, said IDOT spokeswoman Maria Castaneda. It's likely there are more who use them on local roads, but IDOT doesn't keep that data, she said.

Suburbs with red-light cameras include Addison, Bensenville, Des Plaines, Fox River Grove, Hanover Park, Lake Zurich, Streamwood and many more. Wauconda reinstalled a third camera last year after an eight-year hiatus, and Rolling Meadows and Rosemont extended their contracts in 2019.

Deer Park, Algonquin, St. Charles and Schaumburg have removed red-light cameras over the years after determining that crash data didn't show significant changes.

Three people were sentenced to prison in connection with a bribery scandal involving Chicago's first red-light camera vendor. Former state Sen. Marin Sandoval, a Chicago Democrat who was chairman of the Senate's transportation committee, pleaded guilty earlier this year to taking about $250,000 in bribes from a red-light camera company and others. That included $70,000 federal investigators provided to an executive of Chicago-based SafeSpeed, LLC, who was a cooperating witness in a sting operation against Sandoval. The company itself has denied any wrongdoing.

Palatines's police management analyst Kurt Schroeder, who determines whether red-light camera video results in citations, said the program needs to be managed properly.

"Some unscrupulous people have cast a bad light on the process," Schroeder said. "It has to be done ethically."

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