Victorville Latest City In SB County To Pull The Plug On Red Light Camera Systems

VICTORVILLE—(March 21) Victorville’s seven-year running experience with red light camera systems is coming to an end, following the city council’s 4-1 March 17 vote against renewing the contract it has with Redflex for ten of the devices.
The council had the option of renewing the current arrangement it has had since 2010 with Australia-based Redflex, which has an American corporate office in Arizona, or entering into a contract with different terms that would be more favorable to the city. The council took neither path, and indications were that the cameras will come down as of July 1.
Victorville is one of the last of several San Bernardino County cities to jettison the red light camera program. Previously, Chino, Grand Terrace, Hesperia, Loma Linda, Montclair, Rancho Cucamonga, Rialto San Bernardino Upland and Yucaipa had contracts with Redflex or its main competitor, American Traffic Solutions for the operation of the systems. But a combination of profiteering by the corporations operating them, misrepresentations as to their value as a revenue producer for local governments, their ineffectiveness and public discontent derailed the programs.
Red light cameras came into vogue in much of San Bernardino County just as the economic downturn of 2007 hit. While billing the installation of the devices as a safety enhancement measure, many local municipalities were hoping they would generate, by means of the state-mandated minimal $489 citations they entail, more revenue. But in nearly every case, the deals made with Redflex and American Traffic Solutions, granted the companies operating the cameras the lion’s share of the profit to be had from the systems. Processing the tickets, as required by law, through the courts entailed court costs, which further lessened the city’s piece of the action on the operations. In most of the cities, a police department employee was devoted either full or part time to working the system, augmented by two to three other non-sworn employees who devoted part of their work weeks to the processing of tickets. The human interaction with the automated systems, and in particular the interaction of sworn law enforcement personnel, became an issue as an increasingly sophisticated public began to use elements of the traffic code to contest the tickets, citing in some cases the need for tickets to be issued by officers with current training certification to be valid. This undercut the Redflex and American Traffic Solutions selling points, which asserted that the automated systems would be cost efficient. In the cases of at least three San Bernardino County cities, when the fees paid to Redflex or American Traffic Solutions and the courts were subtracted from the net ticket proceeds, those cities were losing money on the ventures.
Coming into play was the consideration that red light cameras, by certain statistical analysis, increased rather than diminished traffic accidents. In this regard, there had been controversy over red light camera programs from even before they were put in place in San Bernardino County. Some opposed them on safety grounds, arguing that it would result in an uptick in rear-end collisions as many motorists in reaction to yellow lights came to an abrupt halt. Advocates of the system said that the cameras would nonetheless prevent more serious T-bone accidents, i.e., ones that involved cars being broadsided in the city’s intersections. Statistics appeared to bear this out.
The systems proved highly unpopular with a large percentage of the county’s residents, many of whom were being cited to appear for making what would turn out to be, upon a time-consuming court appearance, legal right hand turns against a red light. When cities looked into shutting the red light camera operations down, they were confronted with clauses in the Redflex and American Traffic Solutions contracts that required the cities put up a substantial amount of money, in some cases hundreds of thousands of dollars, to buy out the contracts. Some elected to bite the bullet and pay off the companies to end the arrangements early. In Victorville’s case, the city is hanging on to the bitter end of the contract.
On March 17, the city council heard a presentation from captain Sam Lucia, who heads the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Victorville station, which serves as the Victorville police department. Lucia, presented statistics indicating collisions were down almost 91 percent at both camera-guarded and non-camera intersections in Victorville and that overall in the city vehicle mishaps had reduced by 54 percent since 2007. Paradoxically, drivers in Victorville were increasingly running red lights during the same time frame. The traffic light cameras perhaps had an impact Lucia said, but he could not say that for sure and he could not quantify it. Sizing up whether this was “solely” attributable to Redflex, he said, “I don’t know.”

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