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Thursday, May 24, 2018
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Tampa council considers keeping red-light cameras

TAMPA — It looks like Tampa’s red-light cameras will be staying put.

Tampa City Council members say Mayor Bob Buckhorn pledged this week to put 25 percent of the revenue generated by the cameras into intersection improvements to increase safety.

Council members will consider the proposal when they meet at 9 a.m. Thursday.

Last month, four of the council’s seven members voted against renewing the city’s contract with Arizona-based American Traffic Solutions, which operates the 51 cameras, in a dispute with Buckhorn over how the money they generate gets used.

By Wednesday, three of those four said they would support a proposal based on their discussions with the administration. Chairman Charlie Miranda said he would wait to hear the administration’s official offer.

Since the cameras were turned on in 2011, the city’s portion of the revenue from red-light runners has gone into the city’s general fund, which finances day-to-day operations.

Each $158 fine is split among the state, American Traffic and the city. The city pays American Traffic Solutions $3,750 per camera per month.

Some of each fine goes to the state’s trauma fund and to a program for spinal injuries.

The camera program has been controversial since it was introduced. Council members voted 4-3 to install them in 2011. Since then, the program has been criticized as little more than a money maker for the city.

Police Chief Jane Castor told council members last month the program has reduced both crashes and red-light citations.

She said the cameras take the place of 18 traffic officers who normally would be patrolling the more dangerous intersections.

Earlier this month, the St. Petersburg City Council voted to pull the plug on its red-light cameras at the urging of newly elected Mayor Rick Kriseman.

In St. Petersburg, the program was on track to soon cost more to operate than it was generating in fines. As people become aware of the intersections where cameras stand guard, fewer violations are recorded and fewer violations mean less fines coming into the city.

In Tampa, red-light cameras added $1.6 million to city revenues in 2013. That could mean putting $400,000 toward intersection improvements.

Councilman Frank Reddick, one of those voting against the renewal last month, said he wants the city to put some of its own money into traffic improvements. The city’s transportation budget is financed mostly by state and federal grants.

Councilwoman Yvonne Yolie Capin said investing red-light fines in transportation should increase public support for the cameras.

“I’ve seen municipalities give up on these because the people perceive it as a way to make money,” Capin said.

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