Richmond adding red light cameras to catch violators

By Rachel DePompa - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Red light runners beware -- the City of Richmond is coming after you.

Richmond is installing digital cameras at 20 intersections. If you blow through a red light, the cameras will record your license plate number and send you a $50 ticket in the mail.

"The mayor sees quite a value for the potential use of this program in the City of Richmond," said press secretary Tammy Hawley. "You end up with police officers not being posted at problem intersections. They're free to do other policing and you also escape the difficulty of a police officer having to follow a red light violator through a red light."

The city will be the first in Central Virginia to add digital cameras to watch over intersections. Officials have not revealed the locations will have the cameras, but they say the cameras aren't going to be stationary either.

"What happens if you leave them at one location is drivers will become conditioned to where they are," Hawley said. "So a good red light enforcement program will rotate the system around the city."

In 2007 the General Assembly voted to allow localities to have these red light enforcement programs. They're only allowed to fine you up to $50, so it doesn't go on your driving record and it won't drive up your insurance rate.

Northern Virginia has red light cameras; so does Virginia Beach. The Richmond Metropolitan Authority uses cameras on the Powhite Expressway to keep violators out of the E-Z Pass lanes.

"We're very excited with the technology that we have on the express lanes because it's doing what it's supposed to do," said Linda McElroy, spokesperson the RMA. "We're catching violators who violate on our express lanes who do not have an E-Z Pass."

The RMA catches hundreds of violators each month. The cameras have been in place for a year and a half.

"We had 74 people who appeared in court in the month of March who were guilty of violating our express lanes. Compared to zero who were found not guilty," McElroy said.

But some, like Kent Willis, the Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union, argue cameras at red lights don't deter accidents, they just take away your privacy.

"Red light cameras are a public policy issue more than a legal issue. The city can do this, but the question is do we want the city to do this and why are they doing it?," Willis said.

"Most of the studies show that these cameras do not in any way affect traffic safety whatsoever. All they do is generate income for the city," he added.

City leaders say it's not known how much the cameras will generate. The city was accepting bids on this project until 4 p.m. today. Once officials select a company, the cameras could be in place by mid-summer.

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