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Red-light cameras likely coming to Iowa City soon

BY KRISTEN EAST | FEBRUARY 22, 2012 6:30 AM

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Red-light cameras are likely coming to an intersection near you.

The Iowa City City Council passed an ordinance allowing development of red-light cameras throughout town on its final consideration Tuesday night.

In contrast to the first and second considerations of the ordinance, the only community members who addressed the council Tuesday were those who opposed the ordinance.

Mayor Matt Hayek and Councilors Rick Dobyns, Terry Dickens, and Susan Mims voted in favor of the ordinance.

Councilor Connie Champion maintained her position on the red-light cameras, voting "no" on all three considerations.

"There is a place for cameras," she said, acknowledging the red-light cameras in use in Cedar Rapids. "I'm not for them. There are other things that could be done. I don't like it, and I probably won't ever like it."

According to the Des Moines Register, results of an Iowa Poll conducted last week indicate that 50 percent of Iowans favor a ban on red-light cameras.

There are already more than 200 cameras placed throughout the city monitoring activity, including eight cameras on the Pedestrian Mall purchased and installed by the Iowa City Downtown Association in June 2010.

Iowa City police Sgt. Denise Brotherton said the department doesn't routinely monitor the cameras, but the police do refer to them if there is an investigation.

"We definitely support the cameras, and we do refer to them if there is an investigation downtown that we see they can assist in," she said. "But if there's a fight downtown, it'll happen in front of the officers. [Officers] probably won't go back and get that from the cameras.

Brotherton said though there has been a noticeable decrease in violence and crime-related activities since cameras were installed, there are other factors that should be taken into consideration.

"It's not necessarily because of the cameras," she said. "[The cameras] help, and we support them, but the 21-ordinance and some other factors, such as the additional presence of campus police, has also helped."

The Iowa City Transit system also uses cameras to monitor for incidents or misbehavior.

Chris O'Brien, the city's director of transportation services, there are six cameras on each of the city's 27 buses. He said cameras are in place to review accidents and evaluate complaints.

"[The cameras] allow us to go back and determine what truly happens when an incident occurs," he said.

The most recently purchased bus video surveillance system cost $8,782, O'Brien said. The Federal Transit Administration paid for 83 percent of the funds, leaving Iowa City officials responsible for slightly less than $1,500 of the initial cost.

Hayek said the approval of the ordinance gives the City Council the authority to issue a request for proposals, negotiate contracts, and determine the 10 upcoming cameras' prices. That process, he said, will likely take a few months.

Iowa City transportation planner John Yapp said it's difficult to estimate the funds needed for the red-light cameras without having a contract.

"When we get to the point of actually doing installation, we should check the data and recommend intersections that have the most red-light issues," he said.


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