Iorio gives green light to red-light cameras
January 20, 2010
TAMPA - Red-light cameras are coming to Tampa.
Two years after abandoning a similar proposal, city officials are moving ahead with plans to install the controversial traffic enforcement devices at 10 intersections as a way to crack down on chronic scofflaws and generate much-needed revenue.
Within the next few weeks, the city will begin soliciting bids from prospective vendors to operate the cameras, according to Gregory Spearman, the city's purchasing director. If all goes well, he said, the new system could be up and running by the end of the year.
Locally, red-light cameras are in operation in Port Richey, Temple Terrace and Lakeland. Hillsborough County recently installed cameras at 10 intersections, including Dale Mabry Highway and Waters Avenue, and began issuing fines to violators at the end of 2009.
The city contemplated installing the cameras in 2007, but Mayor Pam Iorio scrapped the plans, citing available research on rear-end collisions and concerns about using a private company to issue traffic citations.
Iorio said recently that after studying the effectiveness of the red-light cameras in other Bay area communities, her administration now thinks the traffic control devices are working.
"The city's police department supports this strongly because of the issue we have with red-light runners, and I believe there has been enough experience with other jurisdictions to ensure that the program can operate properly," she said.
Red-light cameras would require city council approval, but several council members have said previously they would support the move if the Iorio administration goes ahead with it.
Tampa faces major budget shortfalls, and city officials have been searching for ways to cut costs as well as to generate additional money for a dwindling general fund.
City officials said they could use the added revenue from citations but point out that the primary reason for reconsidering the use of the cameras is the issue of public safety. There will likely be a 60- to 90-day warning period before the city begins issuing fines.
Proponents of the high-speed surveillance equipment say it has been shown to reduce red-light violations. The technology has drawn its share of critics, including Libertarian groups that say the real purpose of red-light cameras is to generate revenue.
About 15 Florida jurisdictions have the cameras and about that many are considering contracts with companies to operate the devices.
Officials in Temple Terrace and Lakeland say the cameras work.
The citations typically are $125 for each violation, but repeat offenders could be fined up to $500. Violators can challenge citations in court.
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