Critics Call City's Speed Cameras Unfair

Location of cameras and revenue questioned, but city says they're effective at getting drivers to slow down

New speed cameras in Chicago may be causing drivers to slow down, but some argue the city's cameras are unfair no matter what the video shows.

Casandra Walker said she never received a speeding ticket in all the years she took West Peterson Avenue to work. But she was ticketed five times by the same camera in less than a month when the camera at 3137 West Peterson began issuing citations earlier this year.

"I made sure I was extra, extra slow," Walker recalled after receiving the first ticket on March 10.

But four more tickets followed. Walker calls them "bogus" tickets. She said contesting the tickets proved difficult so she ultimately paid her fines, which cost more than $400.

NBC 5 Investigates has learned through an open records request that the camera at 3137 West Peterson has issued more than 13,000 violations this year. Nearly 5,000 of those violations resulted in citations generating $283,950 in ticket revenue for the city.

The city currently has 122 speed cameras that have generated more than $13 million since the technology went online this year.

Speed cameras record the time, location and speed of vehicles. Signs are posted warning drivers of the cameras. The devices are placed based on crash data where speed is a factor, according to a city spokesperson.

And the cameras appear to be making an impact.

"Earlier this summer, the data showed that the number of speeding events recorded by each camera reduced by an average of 43 percent from the first week of its operation to the latest week, and as much as 99 percent in some locations," wrote Pete Scales of the Chicago Department of Transportation.

City data also revealed 39 percent of all violations have gone to non-city residents.

But critics question the location of many of the cameras.

"They've put these cameras on streets where there's cemeteries and called it a park. On areas that are supposed to be a park and there is no park. They're really pushing the limits and I think in some cases stepped over that line," said Barnet Fagel, an advocate who helps drivers contest their tickets from red light and speed cameras.

Fagel is also known as the Red Light Doctor and he said he's successfully helped between 75 percent and 80 percent of his clients. Fagel urges drivers to pay attention to posted camera warnings. But he said external factors like reflections may cause discrepancies in the recorded speed.

"I can't defend people who don't pay attention. I won't do that," Fagel said. "But if there is a technical glitch in the way they have measured the speed, if there are two cars in the image, the speed generated could have been from either car or from a car going in another direction."

The city said the cameras each contain two radar devices that measure speed. The city said if one radar device is off, it does not take the reading and no violations are issued.

Drivers have 14 days from the issuance of a ticket to contest it.

But Walker said the cameras are just another money maker for the city.

"I think it's sad how they're taking people's money," Walker said. "They're taking food off people's table. Taking money from rent, mortgage." 

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