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Wednesday, Dec 19, 2018
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Red-light cameras still a go in St. Pete

ST. PETERSBURG — Red-light cameras will continue to police 10 intersections for now, but city council members may ask the mayor to make the cameras more forgiving.

Council member Charlie Gerdes, who repeatedly has backed the program, said the city should look into reconfiguring the cameras so drivers are not ticketed when they misjudge the stoplight by a few tenths of a second. Council member Karl Nurse has requested a similar change in the past.

New Mayor Rick Kriseman has said he supports keeping the cameras in place. The council has no authority to force a change in how the cameras are used but can cancel the city’s contract with red-light camera company American Traffic Solutions.

“I don’t want to send the message that we will be hands-off on this,” Gerdes said.

The discussion arose because of a proposal from council member Wengay Newton to reimburse drivers he said were wrongly ticketed because of faults in the system. As proof the system was flawed, Newton cited tickets that inaccurately listed the yellow-light duration of the stoplight.

Transportation director Joe Kubicki said a review of citations done in conjunction with the Florida Department of Transportation showed that stoplights were working correctly. Every $158 citation was warranted, he said.

The anomaly was because state law does not allow red-light camera equipment to be connected directly to the stoplight control cabinet. That explained the tiny differences in timings, he said.

St. Petersburg introduced red-light cameras in 2011. Supporters say they reduce intersection crashes, but critics contend they simply are a revenue generator for cities.

St. Petersburg issued 36,000 camera citations in the first full year of the program. Its share of the fines totaled roughly $707,000. City officials are scheduled to report numbers for the second full year at a meeting this month.

Despite being a fixture for more than two years, the cameras have remained controversial, with the program surviving several narrow votes to scrap it in 2013.

The decision could soon be taken out of their hands with the Florida House of Representatives Economic Affairs Committee on Thursday backing a state bill to ban red-light cameras.

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