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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spokane City Council extends red light camera law

Photos can be used until at least 2013

Spokane’s red light cameras will stay in operation at least three more years.

The Spokane City Council on Monday voted unanimously to extend the law that authorizes the city to catch red light runners with cameras through Nov. 13, 2013. Otherwise it would have expired at the end of next month.

From November 2008 through Sept. 15, the city issued 14,555 tickets from red light cameras. Only 280 of the $124 tickets have been thrown out, said Spokane Police Officer Teresa Fuller, who runs the program.

Councilman Bob Apple said he was concerned about extending the life of the cameras for three more years given mixed results.

“I just don’t want to put the public in Spokane in harm’s way,” Apple said.

But City Council President Joe Shogan said he believes the program likely is making a difference.

“How bad would it have been if we had 14,000 red light runners with impunity not obeying the law?” he said.

A Spokesman-Review analysis of crash data at three intersections with cameras showed that collisions and injuries increased at intersections with cameras from 2008 to 2009.

Fuller said, however, that preliminary data indicates that crashes and injuries were down in the first half of 2010. She said tickets also have fallen – a possible sign that motorists are adapting more lawful behavior.

After the meeting, Apple said he agreed to vote in favor of an extension because doing so wouldn’t prevent the council from terminating the camera contract early.

The new date corresponds with the end of the city’s five-year contract with camera operator, Arizona-based American Traffic Solutions.

So far this year, the city has generated more than $600,000 from camera tickets. After expenses were subtracted, the city has made more than $270,000 in profit.

Worried that the cameras would be criticized as a cash cow, the City Council mandated that camera profits be spent only on traffic safety measures. Street officials are working with neighborhood councils to select the first $350,000 worth of projects paid for through cameras.

“It’s not some sort of gravy train for the city budget,” Shogan said.