Updated: October 27, 2011 at 12:00 am
Colorado Springs city officials decided to pull the plug on Monday on cameras designed to catch red light runners at four intersections across Colorado Springs.
The decision to do away with red light cameras was made official Thursday, a little more than a week after Pete Carey, the interim chief of the Colorado Springs Police Department, said the program wasn’t improving traffic safety.
“This is really a change in enforcement strategy,” said Sgt. Steve Noblitt, police spokesman, adding that officers will continue to ticket red light violators the old fashioned way.
The contract with American Traffic Solutions to run the red light cameras ends Monday — not at the end of 2011, as city officials previously thought, said Mary Scott, city spokeswoman.
The mobile speed van, which uses a radar gun and cameras mounted on a minivan to catch speeders, will continue.
Carey said on Oct. 18 that the cameras had done little to curb crashes, and the two officers and a half-time sergeant monitoring the cameras could better serve the city by being out on patrol.
Carey added last week that “public opinion” played a role in his decision to cut the cameras.
His announcement came after a report issued earlier this month touted the program’s effectiveness in cutting down on the number of red light runners who routinely cause broadside wrecks.
According to information provided to the Gazette this week, crashes increased slightly after the cameras were installed, though the Police Department did not specify whether the crashes were broadside wrecks or rear-end crashes.
In the 11 months prior to October 2010, five crashes happened at the four intersections where the cameras were installed: Bijou Street and Nevada Avenue; Circle Drive and Platte Avenue; Murray Road and Platte, and Oro Blanco Drive and Barnes Road.
In the ensuing 11 months, eight crashes happened at those intersections, according to Barbara Miller, police spokeswoman.
City Council president Scott Hente said he was “befuddled” by Thursday’s announcement, which brought an end to a program that has proven “overwhelmingly” popular with his constituents.
Hente was also concerned that city officials never consulted City Council before making the decision final.
When the proposed cuts were announced, Hente asked city officials for data on whether the cameras were boosting safety. He said Thursday that he has yet to get those statistics.
“I thought the city staff would do that as a form of courtesy, if nothing else, if not necessarily procedure,” Hente said. “And secondly, I think as a matter of procedure, I think it does have to come back to council because we’re the ones that authorized it in the first place.”
Word of the cameras’ demise came as a shock to Larry Sarlo.
A teacher at Doherty High School, Sarlo said the cameras have significantly cut down on the number of red light runners at Oro Blanco Drive and Barnes Road, which is near the school.
City statistics back his claims: The number of tickets handed out at the intersection dropped by a third since being installed. Half as many people were issued tickets at the two intersections with cameras on Platte Avenue.
The only intersection to register an increase in violators was Nevada Avenue and Bijou Street.
“I think they’re the best thing to happen in this town and we ought to have more of them,” Sarlo said.
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