Police demonstrate red-light videos
Jan 31, 2013 (St. Joseph News-Press - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
St. Joseph police demonstrated Wednesday how they review and approve red-light violations before a $100 ticket is sent to the driver.
Four red-light cameras have been in use in St. Joseph since Jan. 18, watching cars at the intersections of the Belt Highway and Frederick Boulevard, and the Belt Highway and Cook Road.
Sgt. Richard Ketchem, supervisor for the St. Joseph Police Department's Traffic Unit, said 91 warnings have been issued since the cameras were turned on less than two weeks ago. Full violations will be sent starting Feb. 17.
Violations are recorded when a car travels through a red-light at one of the two intersections. The system captures three photos: a close-up of the license plate, one of the car approaching the intersection and another of the car driving through the intersection.
Each photo gives information on the car's speed and direction, as well as how long the light was yellow and how long the light was red.
The cameras also capture video.
"So I can really make sense of everything and make sure there aren't any other circumstances at play," Mr. Ketchem said. " ... If I need to, I can back it up frame by frame to see just where he was when the light turned red, because the still picture doesn't give it justice if they're moving at a good speed."
The violation is first reviewed by technicians with American Traffic Solutions in Arizona, then sent online to the St. Joseph Police Department. Officers in the Traffic Unit also review the footage before they determine whether to levy a fine on the driver.
Tickets are then written and mailed by American Traffic Solutions, along with photos and video. The company collects $75 from each of the first two citations issued per day. Any additional revenue will be put back in the Police Department's budget, said Carolyn Harrison, director of administrative services for the city.
City officials are unsure how much revenue will be collected each fiscal year. However, traffic studies have indicated nearly 100 violations could occur every week.
"That should go down after we've started giving violations," Mr. Ketchem said.
The City Council approved use of the cameras in 2011, with the goal of reducing red-light violations as well as life-threatening crashes. Mr. Ketchem acknowledged, however, that rear-end collisions likely will increase while drivers get used to being monitored.
"Even with that, I'd rather have a low-speed, rear-end collision with minimal injuries, as opposed to an angle collision in the intersection where someone's going to get hurt," he said. "So you have a little trade-off. But any time you're trying to modify people's behavior, there's going to be a time frame where they're getting used to it."
Kim Norvell can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter: @SJNPNorvell.
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