BROOKSVILLE — City Council members had asked for more evidence to support the notion that the city needs red-light traffic cameras. So, police Chief George Turner and city officials gave them a binder of lists and memos and studies more than an inch thick.
"He didn't put together a list," council member Lara Bradburn said Wednesday. "He put together a book."
With Turner leading the charge, Brooksville has become the latest municipality in the Tampa Bay area to push for red-light cameras. The proposal hit a snag, however, when council members voted 3-2 at their March 17 meeting to allow themselves more time to evaluate whether to install cameras at some of the city's busiest intersections.
Motorists who run red lights would be photographed by the cameras twice, as the vehicle approaches the light and then crossing the intersection. The cameras also would shoot a video, which would be available for the violator to watch online.
A police officer will view the video and ultimately determine if the driver broke the law. If so, the driver would be sent a ticket, which would be a civil, not criminal, citation.
The council will reconsider the plan at its April 21 meeting. Until then, Turner has given council members plenty to review.
"My recommendation is that it's a great program," Turner said. "It's a way to save lives, make roads safe and instill a sense of defensive driving in everyone. I'm hoping they will vote 5-0 this time."
At the March 17 meeting, Mayor David Pugh sided with council members Richard Lewis and Bradburn in voting to move the measure forward but asked for "enough time to digest all the information we need."
Joe Bernardini and Frankie Burnett cast dissenting votes but were adamant about getting the information in a timely manner.
To bolster the case for cameras, Turner came up with a list of the five most dangerous intersections in Brooksville using the numbers of citations issued for traffic light violations between January 2000 and March 26 (2,063); the numbers of crash investigations between January 2007 and March 20 (573); information from Hernando County's 2006 report on highest crash frequency locations; interviews with several officers; and his own observations from time spent driving around the city.
"The statistics themselves will show that we have a problem," Turner said. "And the research will show that red-light cameras are a step in answering that problem."
Turner also included dozens of pages of research and clippings from a variety of sources, including one from the director of the University of South Florida's Center for Urban Transportation Research. Edward Mierzejewski briefly rebutted a few of the claims from colleague Barbara Langland-Orban's study that concluded the cameras increase crashes and injuries.
"I feel compelled to offer some contrary evidence," Mierzejewski said in an e-mail to Pugh and City Manager Jennene Norman-Vacha. "While focusing on a couple of contrary studies ... she neglects to include in her synthesis the many studies that support the effectiveness of red light running cameras."
Langland-Orban could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Most of the council members had not had a chance to review Turner's packet since receiving it Friday. But nearly all of them said they were willing to withhold judgment until reading through the information.
"I really hadn't decided 100 percent either way," Lewis said. "There's a lot to digest."
Said Burnett: "I want a chance to read over the information provided to us. There's also some other avenues to do a little research. I don't depend only on the information they give me. I know better than that."
Pugh didn't return a message left on his cell phone Wednesday.
Brooksville officials hope to follow the lead of several other municipalities in the area, including Port Richey, which installed its first red-light camera on March 19. Hillsborough County commissioners approved a similar plan earlier in the month and Clearwater and Temple Terrace are also considering proposals from American Traffic Solutions of Scottsdale, Ariz.
Joel Anderson can be reached at [email protected] or 754-6120.