KENNETH CITY — It's a small town with a big reputation for cracking down on traffic scofflaws.
Now Kenneth City, with 4,500 residents and all of five traffic lights, plans to be the first place in the county to use cameras to catch red light runners.
A council vote last week began a process that could take four to six months before cameras are installed at up to four signals. The intersections under consideration are at 54th Avenue N and 58th Street, 54th Avenue N and 62nd Street, 66th Street and 46th Avenue N, and 58th Street and 46th Avenue N.
The town plans to hire American Traffic Solutions of Scottsdale, Ariz., to run the program. The cameras would take pictures of vehicles as they cross the intersection, and ATS employees would scan the photos and send the possible violations to the Kenneth City Police Department. The police would decide whether a violation had occurred and notify the driver.
The penalty for running a red light is stiff — a $231 fine and a requirement that the driver attend a four-hour driver improvement course. Kenneth City pockets only $16.76 of each fine. The remainder goes to other fees, including court costs, criminal justice education and a driver education safety trust fund.
In making the decision to use cameras, Kenneth City has put itself on the cutting edge of traffic enforcement in Pinellas. Other governments have considered installing the cameras but all have backed off.
"Right now, we don't support it," Pinellas County sheriff's spokeswoman Cecilia Barreda said.
Barreda noted that many of the companies that supply the cameras take a cut of the ticket proceeds. ATS is one of those. Barreda also noted that a number of municipalities that have installed them are facing lawsuits.
Seminole City Manager Frank Edmunds said the idea has been discussed at the staff level in his city, but has never gone further.
"We think an equal or even better deterrent is the visibility of police presence," Edmunds said.
Pinellas Park also decided to forego the cameras. Mayor Bill Mischler said council members were dissuaded in part by the time delay between the offense and the ticket. If a motorist runs a light, he said, and is immediately given a ticket, that acts as a deterrent. But if a motorist runs a light and is unaware of the ticket, he may continue to run the light and end up with multiple citations before he knows he has broken the law.
"I think (the technology's) still too much in the development phase," Mischler said. In the future, however, Pinellas Park could change its position if red light running becomes a major issue.
Kenneth City Mayor Pro Tem Teresa Zemaitis said the decision is one of safety, not revenue.
However, of the 62 accidents in the town last year, according to Police Chief Doug Pasley, only one involved a red light violation.
On the other hand, statistics from the state highway department show that Kenneth City issued 293 tickets for running red lights in 2008. Only 12 were dismissed, leaving Kenneth City to receive the revenue from the remaining 281. That would be about $4,709 for Kenneth City's coffers.
Reach Anne Lindberg at [email protected] or (727) 893-8450.