ST. PETERSBURG — Red-light cameras are watching.
The city turned on cameras at 11 intersections Thursday to catch motorists who run red lights. The cameras are expected to generate nearly $900,000 for the city from fines next year.
The good news — fines won't be issued until at least Oct. 15.
Although the cameras started operating today, a monthlong warning period will follow. That means violators will get only notices and not a $158 fine. The city also plans to unleash a media blitz intended to convince people that the cameras will improve safety. (Academic studies are split on whether cameras do improve safety.)
Anyone who receives tickets after Oct. 15 will get a printout of two photos of the car, plus a website address to view a video of the car going through a red light. A violation occurs if the first photo shows the car with its front tires behind the stop bar after the light has turned red, and if a second photo shows the car continuing into the intersection. The video also captures the violation.
The city hired American Traffic Solutions of Scottsdale, Ariz., to run the program for three years at a cost of $3.7 million. They expect to pay for it from money raised by tickets.
The company is spending about $50,000 to advertise the program in St. Petersburg. Tampa also is debuting its red-light program in October, with tickets for infractions beginning Oct. 31. The publicity campaign combines testimonials from Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhor and St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster about the benefits of red-light cameras.