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Study Warns of Speed Camera Contract Traps

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Study Warns of Speed Camera Contract Traps
Study Warns of Speed Camera Contract Traps

NBCPhiladelphia.com

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Mayor Rahm Emanuel's red-light speeding camera concept is moving forward. But a report from the Illinois PIRG warns lawmakers to slow down. 

The Illinois Senate on Wednesday approved Emanuel's idea to outfit existing red-light cameras in Chicago with speed sensors at intersections near schools and parks. The proposal meant to curb accidents passed 32-24 and now moves to the House.

But an Illinois PIRG report says outsourced speeding enforcement such as the one being considered may not have the public's interests at heart.

"Nationally, automated traffic ticketing tends to be governed by contracts that focus more on profits than safety,” said Celeste Meiffren, Illinois PIRG field director. “That shouldn’t happen.”

The report says contracts between private camera vendors and other municipalities include payment incentives, and others have ticket quotas with potential penalties for cities that don't approve enough tickets.

Meiffren said Illinois and Chicago have implemented protections for the public in these contracts. Still, as the expanded bill is considered, she said the city should be aware of pitfalls that could undermine local officials’ authority.

“Our report found that too many cities wrongly sign away power to ensure the safety of citizens on the roads when they privatize traffic law enforcement," Meiffren said.

She points out Redflex Traffic Systems, the company Chicago has a contract with for 380 red-light cameras, used more than 100 lobbyists to secure contracts in 18 different states, including Illinois. 

The report suggests cities avoid incentives for vendors based on volume of tickets, retain public control of traffic policy and put public safety first in the decision. 

Emanuel has said this bill is all about public safety. In a Wednesday statement, his office called the Senate vote a "victory for Chicago and Chicago's families."

"It's all about safety and protecting our children and providing safe zones and safe havens for our children," said Ald. Michelle Harris (8th).

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