Only On 7: Belmont turns off red light cameras


Belmont's red light cameras are at two intersections: heavily-traveled Ralston Avenue and El Camino and the second set at Ralston and Old County Road. Tuesday night, the city council voted 3-1 to shut them down. Councilmember Dave Warden has been a vocal critic right from the start.

"That's what we pay our police to do. We pay our police to enforce our laws and I don't think these cameras are doing any good at all," said Warden.

The cameras made by Redflex Traffic Systems averaged about 170 citations a month, mostly for rolling stops when making right turns. Belmont Police Chief Dan Desmidt believes the cameras were able to accomplish for public safety what his officers could not.

"Because of the geographical layout of those intersections, it was difficult to have officers there. So we felt in that way, it reached our goal," said Desmidt.

The department monitored the two intersections. There were very few straight-on collisions either before or after the cameras were installed. But according to red light monitoring group Safe Streets, at El Camino and Ralston there were seven more rear-end collisions 20 months after the cameras were installed than the same time before. Twenty months before the cameras were installed there were 12 and after there were 19. At the other intersection, rear-enders dubbed "panic braking" doubled after the cameras existed from two to four.

Councilmember Coralin Feierbach also voted against the cameras. She pointed out that Redflex is in the midst of a corruption scandal in one of its biggest client cities -- Chicago. Company officials have been accused of secretly giving lavish gifts to a former city official.

"I don't think a city, a public city, a city that's public, should have to do anything with a company that has had corruptions scandals," said Feierbach.

Most of the folks we spoke said no to the cameras, just like Belmont motorist Hortensia Machicado. She said, "I think it's a good idea to do that because I already got a ticket for that. So, I am so happy about that one."

Belmont motorist Rafael Sivug disagrees. He said, "Late at night, there's a lot of people just passing red lights, so I think they should put it back."

Another big reason why council members voted against the red light cameras is that they felt it was bad public relations for the city. They got a lot of angry emails from people who got tickets from making those right turns, people who said they would never come back to Belmont to shop again.

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