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Tampa, St. Petersburg red-light cameras making money, reducing violations

Lt. W.J. Korinek, left, and civilian investigator George Leake of the St. Petersburg Police Department review red-light camera recordings in May. In St. Petersburg, rear-end crashes are down 45 percent since the cameras were put in, and red-light related crashes at intersections are down 60 percent.
Lt. W.J. Korinek, left, and civilian investigator George Leake of the St. Petersburg Police Department review red-light camera recordings in May. In St. Petersburg, rear-end crashes are down 45 percent since the cameras were put in, and red-light related crashes at intersections are down 60 percent.
Published Jun. 8, 2012

At least for a while, it's a revenue source government can count on: red-light runners.

Halfway through the first year with controversial intersection red-light cameras, Tampa and St. Petersburg each pocketed about $1 million in fines. That puts both cities on track to meet original revenue projections for the cameras.

In Tampa, police issued 38,646 citations to drivers caught on cameras running red lights at 15 intersections between November 2011 and April.

Of those, almost 22,000 drivers have paid the $158 fine, bringing in about $3.4 million in revenue, Tampa budget director Dennis Rogero told the City Council on Thursday.

Tampa cleared just under $1 million after paying the state ($1.8 million) and private camera vendor American Traffic Solutions ($630,000) their shares.

City officials budgeted about $2 million in revenue for the cameras' first year.

In St. Petersburg, where police began ticketing red-light runners in late October, fines produced about $1.9 million through the end of April, according to Joe Kubicki, city director of transportation and parking.

The city kept about $900,000. Take away operating costs, and that's in line with Kubicki's original $850,000 estimate for the first half of the year.

The Tampa intersection with the most red-light violations was northbound N Lois Avenue at W Hillsborough Avenue, followed by the southbound side of S 50th Street at Adamo Drive.

In St. Petersburg, the most red-light runners were caught at 34th Street and 38th Avenue N. Second place went to 34th Street and First Avenue S.

But neither city wants — or expects — drivers to keep getting caught running red lights.

Tampa started off hot in the first two months of operation, citing drivers at a pace that would have tripled the $2 million revenue projection.

But city officials said they figured the citations would drop off — and they were right.

Indeed, Rogero cited the decline as evidence that the cameras appear to be doing their job: reducing by 20 percent the number of people who run red lights.

One graph he presented to the council showed that in November 2011, cameras captured just under 9,000 violations.

By April, that number had fallen to a little more than 6,000.

Nearly 60 percent of drivers caught running red lights in Tampa had cars registered in the city.

Tampa Council member Lisa Montelione said the city should put extra effort into the intersections where the most red-light violations are occurring.

She suggested putting police cruisers in those areas and also looking into safety improvements for pedestrians.

"We have to make the message clear that we have an effort to change the habits of drivers," she said.

In St. Petersburg, Kubicki said, rear-end crashes are down 45 percent since the cameras were put in, and red-light related crashes at intersections are down 60 percent.

He said his department compared the average number of red-light accidents in the three years before the cameras were installed to the numbers in the six months since the cameras were installed.

The number of accidents related to red-light running at the 10 intersections with cameras has dropped 60 percent.

Kubicki also said he expects the number to drop next year.

From November through April, according to a city report, the number of red-light running violations at the 10 St. Petersburg intersections with cameras has remained steady at about 3,500 a month.

He said fewer people run red lights a second time.

"They don't want to get a ticket," he said.

Jodie Tillman can be reached at jtillman@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3374. Alli Langley can be reached at alangley@tampabay.com,

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