TAMPA — More than 24,000 tickets — at $158 each — have been issued in Hillsborough County since cameras were installed at six intersections to catch red-light runners, the Sheriff's Office said.
That's a total of $3.9 million generated by the cameras, assuming all the drivers are found guilty.
The number of crashes with serious injuries at Hillsborough County intersections has decreased since the cameras were installed, said Larry McKinnon, a Sheriff's Office spokesman. That conclusion is based on observations by deputies. Firm numbers were not available, he said.
Money generated from the cameras goes to the county's general fund and other government entities, not to the Sheriff's Office, McKinnon said.
The Sheriff's Office released a new video Tuesday showing drivers running red lights. The video was distributed to underscore the importance of the controversial cameras, McKinnon said.
The cameras are installed at certain intersections in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties. Critics say the cameras do little to improve safety, can actually increase accidents through rear-end collisions and are largely intended to raise money.
"They can see it's not just to generate funds," McKinnon said. "We're actually catching hard-core red-light runners that are killing people."
Deputies have issued 24,887 tickets since January. A portion of the money, $4,750, generated by the tickets is paid to a vendor for installing and maintaining the cameras, McKinnon said. For every $158 ticket paid, the state Department of Revenue gets $70, the state Department of Health administrative trust fund gets $10, the brain and spinal cord injury trust fund gets $3 and the county gets $75.
About 40 people a month challenge their red-light citations, McKinnon said, but only about half show up in court.
The video shows some drivers caught on camera nearly crash. Some speed up past yellow lights. Others don't stop before making a right turn.
McKinnon said the red-light cameras are working because there have been fewer crashes with serious injuries at busy intersections.
The number of tickets issued each month has remained steady. Deputies review footage, and a small percentage of drivers escape penalty. And cameras don't activate when a motorist turning right on red rolls unless the car is moving faster than 15 mph, McKinnon said.
McKinnon said deputies aren't trying to sneak up on drivers.
"We're not out just for numbers," he said. "We're trying to educate people."