BROOKSVILLE — Beware red-light runners. Brooksville has got an eye on you.
For a week, the city's first traffic cameras have been perched at the southwest corner of Broad Street and Dr. M.L. King Jr. Boulevard, south of downtown. For motorists heading north on Broad, a sign alerting drivers of the camera's presence has been posted a block south of the intersection.
"We're not trying to trick anyone," Brooksville police Chief George Turner said. "We want people to know the cameras are there. It's supposed to be a deterrent."
The cameras, which are trained only on northbound traffic, are the first of five sets that will be placed at heavy-traffic intersections throughout the city.
Turner said cameras should be in place at the intersections of Broad and Wiscon Road and Cobb Road and W Jefferson Street by April 23. Two more cameras will go up at Cobb and Jefferson and at Broad and Cortez Boulevard by June 15.
Brooksville has embraced the cameras as a way to nab traffic scofflaws and prevent dangerous collisions.
City Council members unanimously approved installation of the cameras in April. A month later, the council agreed to contract with American Traffic Solutions of Scottsdale, Ariz., to oversee the program.
Since then, a bevy of delays, research for potential sites and permitting issues have delayed the installation.
Chief among them was a warning from state Department of Transportation that it would not allow the use of red-light cameras on state highways. A number of the intersections Brooksville was studying were along State Road 50 and U.S. 41. To work around the restriction, the city is placing cameras on private property near the highways.
Lawmakers in Tallahassee are considering a bill to allow red-light cameras on state rights of way. If that measure passes, Brooksville and other cities and counties interested in using the cameras would have a much easier time finding places to mount cameras.
"We'll be able to do intersections we couldn't do before," Turner said. "If that law passes, we won't have any limitations."
In the meantime, Turner and others are hopeful the cameras will yield positive results. City Manager Jennene Norman-Vacha has said the city will soon kick off a public awareness campaign about the cameras, including alerts on the city's Web site.
Brooksville paid nothing to have the cameras installed. Instead, ATS installs and cares for the cameras and makes its money by taking $40 from every $125 ticket issued to violators.
Motorists who run red lights will be photographed by the camera twice, as the vehicle approaches the light and then crosses the intersection. The cameras will also shoot a video, which will be available for the violator to view online.
A Brooksville police officer will view the video and ultimately determine whether the driver broke the law. If so, the driver will be sent a ticket — a civil, not a criminal, citation — similar to a parking ticket, with no points imposed against a driver's license.
ATS spokesman Josh Weiss boasts that the cameras are proven to reduce the number of crashes and red-light runners. From July 2007 to June 2008, Weiss said, ATS customers saw an 88 percent drop in the number of red-light violations.
"These cameras simply work," Weiss said. "Drivers realize they can no longer expect to run a red light and they need to behave."
For police Chief Turner, the cameras can't come soon enough. Not only will the cameras free his officers to pursue other crimes, but he also figures there will be fewer flagrant violations.
On the day the camera was installed, two cars whizzed through a red light as the chief observed from the sidewalk.
"It wasn't even close," Turner said. "And I could have chased him. But I haven't written a ticket since I've been here."
Joel Anderson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 754-6120.