The Gazette covers City Hall, now a flood-damaged icon on May's Island in the Cedar River

A visit with the police chief makes it easy to see how red-light and speed enforcement cameras will bring in some money

In Police Department on April 10, 2009 at 5:16 pm

Police Chief Greg Graham was talking this week about red-light enforcement cameras plus a mobile camera or two to catch speeders.

The cameras, ten or so, will be in place in Cedar Rapids by early summer.

The chief can go on about how he’s bringing the enforcement cameras to the city to reduce the number of crashes here.

He cites studies that show cities that use enforcement cameras can cut crashes by 20 percent. In 2008, he said the Cedar Rapids Police Department worked 5,000 crashes, taking up countless hours of police work. The number of hours worked on accidents far exceeds the number of hours the department is now devoting to patrolling neighborhoods, he said. And then there is all the gnarled metal; the motorist hospitalizations; the insurance claims.

Graham dismisses any suggestion that the cameras are all about revenue. Even so, the cameras are projected to bring $750,000 a year in ticket revenue into the department’s coffers. And that is just the department’s share. A private company will own the cameras, install them and maintain them and even collect the revenue.

It’s hard to imagine the cameras can generate that kind of revenue until Graham keeps talking.

Firstly, the chief, who came to Cedar Rapids from Ocala, Fla., last June, says people run a lot of red lights in Cedar Rapids. In fact, Graham, who always wears his police uniform, has handed out red-light tickets to people himself.

Secondly, Graham hinted that an individual ticket might cost some money because the vendor’s fee may be added to the ticket amount not included in it.

And thirdly, he suggested that a mobile camera designed to catch speeders might work spots on Interstate 380, including the curves through the downtown. It sounded like a revenue gold mine.

Graham challenged residents to prove him wrong so the Police Department gets no revenue from the cameras.

“How great would that be?” he said.

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  1. What a smarmy individual. “If you don’t want the City to make boatloads of cash off of these cameras, then prove us wrong and stop speeding.” Which, in and of itself, is a tacit admission that there is a profit motive in the cameras, and not a safety motive.

    The other thing that is conveniently left out of most of the information provided by the City is the fact that these tickets are usually civil fines, not criminal penalties, and are only subject to administrative review and appeal, not to judicial review and procedure.

  2. Brave Polish Lancer makes some good points. How many of you find pre-paying for gas a pain? I’ve asked three different managers at different convenience stores why the pre-pay policy has not gone the way of sky high gas prices. All three said the same thing.. the Police will not do anything except give a case number even if a licence plate number and description of car is provided.This is a theft and if supplied with plate number should be treated as such. I find it ironic that the OWNER of a vehicle is held responsible for red light camera tickets which is not a criminal act but a traffic offense, while gas theft is a criminal act and even when provided a plate number no action is taken according to the managers I have spoken with. I would welcome any Police official to refute what managers at convenience stores have said to me. I would like this to be refuted and told I was erroneously informed by the managers.

  3. Do these same managers tell you that they wait hours before calling the police and that most of the time they are getting incomplete tag numbers or wrong tag numbers. If they can’t give a description of the driver or person that pumped the gas then they can’t be prosecuted. Most of the time, the clerks are letting their friends, or themselves, fill up then waiting a couple of hours and calling the police. If they don’t care, how cant he police purse the crime.

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