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Red light cameras soon may keep watch in St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — A drive to install red light cameras at some of the most dangerous city intersections continues to gain momentum.

The proposal, part of Mayor Bill Foster's campaign pledge to use technology to improve public safety, zipped through a City Council meeting last week with enthusiastic support.

Council member Bill Dudley teared up as he recalled a former student and a friend who had been killed by drivers who ran red lights.

"It happens all the time," Dudley said. "This is a great opportunity for us to move forward. A lot of people don't like Big Brother, but we need to do everything we can to nip it in the bud."

The City Council could vote on an ordinance as early as April.

It's still unclear how the city would manage a system of nabbing red light runners. Joe Kubicki, the city's transportation and parking director, said the city could do it or choose a vendor, at no cost to the city, to install and manage the system of cameras. The vendor would get a percentage of the fines.

Kubicki said other jurisdictions have seen crash rates dip by 25 percent once cameras are installed. About 400 communities use them in the United States, including 32 in Florida. Hillsborough County is using them at 10 intersections.

One reason they're so popular of late is they make money, netting Port Richey $250,000 in 18 months and Brooksville $800,000 in eight months.

They are also sparking legal challenges. A judge Monday voided the city of Aventura's use of the cameras after a driver sued. The basis of the suit was that only the state Legislature can pass laws regarding traffic violations. The judge stayed his order pending the city's appeal. There are at least 16 other lawsuits pending in the state.

Kubicki said the city will watch how the courts rule on the cameras, and that may affect how the city manages its own program.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Michael Van Sickler can be reached at (727) 893-8037 or mvansickler@sptimes.com.

Red light cameras soon may keep watch in St. Petersburg 02/23/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 23, 2010 6:49pm]
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