Colorado: Another City Looks to Dump Red Light Cameras

The Newspaper
by The Newspaper

Add Colorado Springs, Colorado to the growing list of cities having second thoughts about the use of red light cameras. On Tuesday, interim Police Chief Pete Carey discussed his intention to drop the year-old program as the contract with vendor American Traffic Solutions (ATS) expires at the end of the year. The mayor, who asked the previous chief to step down, is behind the move.

“The photo red-light enforcement program did not meet our expectations,” Mayor Steve Bach said in a statement. “It is as simple as that. If a safety program can’t be shown to improve safety, it ought to be stopped.”

Thousands of tickets have been issued at four intersections in the city, primarily to those who made a rolling right-hand turn on red. These tickets failed to reduce side impact collisions at those locations, according to the city’s traffic engineering department.

“The jury’s still out whether it’s making those intersections safer,” Carey said on Tuesday. “There’s some preliminary data we’re looking at that indicates — believe it or not — at some of those intersections accidents have gone up.”

There are also financial reasons for the change. The cash-strapped municipality has been restructuring its police department to make operations more efficient, adjusting to a three percent drop in the department budget. Part of the plan involves dumping red light cameras and reassigning the officers dedicated to reviewing photo citations to more important duties.

“When that program was sold to us, it was supposed to be self-sustaining,” Councilman Jan Martin said. “It was not going to cost us anything and that it would actually pay for itself. That’s why it was so attractive.”

Carey said he “sorely needed” the two officers and sergeant who devoted their time (half of his time in the sergeant’s case) in dealing with photo red light issues. He also noted that public opinion against the use of the cameras was a significant factor in the decision. According to a Rasmussen Results poll released Sunday, less than 44 percent of the 1000 adults surveyed supported the use of intersection traffic cameras. This is the first national survey conducted by a group with no financial interest in the use of automated ticketing machines. The finding is consistent with election results that show no photo enforcement program has ever achieved the support of a majority at the ballot box.

Colorado Springs officials hope to keep running photo radar vans, although it is not clear whether ATS will allow that to happen.

“I’m not sure we’ll pull that off with the vendor allowing us to continue without making some other adjustments,” Carey said.


The Newspaper
The Newspaper

More by The Newspaper

Join the conversation
2 of 7 comments
  • Bunkie Bunkie on Oct 20, 2011

    It all depends upon the contract. If the contract simply expires without any obligation for renewal, then ATS is just plain out of luck. The larger issue here is what contract-signing authority is granted to any given municipality. That's what voters should be focussing on. All these towns that ATS has successfully sued appear to have breached contracts. ATS has a right to seek a remedy under those circumstances. Like it or not, voters generally can't overturn a valid contract. Going forward, voters need to implement some sort of review of those contracts prior to execution or require a provision therein that nullifiesthe contract if voters vote against it.

  • Felis Concolor Felis Concolor on Oct 20, 2011

    Yay, make them go away! I understand the concerns about officer reassignment: the force around here is spread so thin it relies heavily on overlap with in-town sheriff operations to keep the peace. And I won't believe any claims about improving safety at the Platte/Murray intersection: the sight lines there are so good from every approach street, the only way someone could cause a collision there is through criminal negligence.