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Councilors request more info on red-light cameras

BY EMILY HOERNER | MARCH 22, 2011 7:20 AM

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The Iowa City city councilors gave the go-ahead for further discussion regarding red-light cameras in the city during Monday night’s special work session.

A majority of councilors said they wanted more information on the cameras before they moved forward. As part of that information, councilors said, they want data on the top-20 busiest intersections in Iowa City in addition to the 10 that have been presented.

But some councilors are still relatively uninterested in the discussion.

“I’m willing to get more information, but I’m absolutely lukewarm [on the issue,” Councilor Regenia Bailey said during the meeting.

Councilor Connie Champion said she’s also skeptical.

“I don’t like the fact that the ticket is given to the car,” she said. “That bothers me.”

The discussion was originally introduced in February by City Manager Tom Markus, who sent councilors an article about the benefits of red-light cameras.

Councilor Mike Wright said now is as good a time as any to discuss the issue.

“Safety — it’s entirely a safety issue,” he said.

Wright said the cameras are a good idea because Iowa City police aren’t able to catch red-light runners at every single intersection every time a driver runs a light.

Cedar Rapids Police Chief Greg Graham, who spoke at the work session, defended the success of his city’s red-light cameras.

Graham said Cedar Rapids gave drivers a month of warnings before issuing citations with the speeding and red-light cameras installed there.

Councilors noted they were looking at red-light cameras specifically, not speeding cameras.

Graham said Cedar Rapids chose to install cameras that were capable of issuing tickets for red-light violations as well as speeding violations. In addition, the cameras have the ability to catch Amber Alert vehicles if necessary, he said.

Councilor Susan Mims said she was willing to look into the idea further.

“I think we should look at both speeding and red-light cameras,” she said.

Iowa City police Chief Sam Hargadine spoke in support of the possibility of red-light cameras. He said there was a need for the technology because he’s witnessed people running red lights daily in Iowa City.

“We’ve got a lot of pedestrians, we’ve got a lot of bicyclists in this community,” he said. “No matter what we do, we’re always accused with not doing enough.”

Hargadine said the red-light cameras would free up time for officers to perform other duties in Iowa City.

Graham said because of the cameras in Cedar Rapids, the police have saved more than 300 hours of manpower in only one year.

The city has received substantial revenue from the cameras, he said, but the money is only a byproduct.

“Crashes are down; injuries are down,” he said. “As far as I’m concerned, that’s what is important.”


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