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Red light cameras voted out in Lombard

Lombard officials are saying the board’s recent decision to remove two red light enforcement cameras in the village was not because of a lack of revenue but because there was no consistent data to indicate the cameras cut down on accidents.

“The cameras didn’t reduce accidents, which was the whole reason the village had them installed,” said Village Manager David Hulseberg. “It wasn’t a monetary decision. I know that our board members heard a lot of statements about their appropriateness. Our elected officials are very in tune with the citizenry.”

Lombard had the cameras installed in April 2009 by RedSpeed Illinois, a company coincidentally based in Lombard. Earlier this month, the village voted to direct the company to remove the remaining camera at Illinois Route 53 and North Avenue. The camera at Roosevelt and Finley roads was removed in May.

While the cameras were installed at no cost to the village, RedSpeed was reimbursed on the basis of tickets issued, according to Hulseberg. If more tickets are issued, it creates revenue both for RedSpeed and the municipality.

According to Lombard Deputy Police Chief Dane Cuny, the village looked at the number of accidents from March 2009 to March 2010, and compared the numbers with those from March 2008 to 2009. Cuny said that while there was an 18 percent reduction in accidents at Route 53 and North Avenue, there was a 5 percent increase in accidents at Roosevelt and Finley roads. And overall, Lombard had a 12 percent decrease in accidents throughout the village.

“We couldn’t say that the cameras actually worked in reducing accidents. The results were inconclusive,” Cuny said.

For some communities, the cameras can become a significant source of revenue. But how traffic laws are interpreted could have a bearing on profitability.

“I know the cameras can be controversial,” Cuny said. “But they didn’t provide a lot of revenue for us like they do in some communities.

“Over 90 percent of the violations caught on camera were vehicles turning right on a red light after not coming to a complete stop,” Cuny said. “But we didn’t issue a ticket unless it was blatant. Our officers were told not to violate the camera system. We said, ‘Don’t issue a ticket that you wouldn’t hand over to a motorist if you were standing there.’”

“I think our police did a good job of managing the camera system,” said Village Trustee Bill Ware, who was elected in April 2009, after the decision was made to install the system. “They didn’t give tickets just to give tickets.

“I was never a big fan of red light cameras and I never will be,” Ware said. “I don’t see their usefulness. We were being asked to pay for upgrades and it seemed like a good time to discuss removing them. I’ve heard only positives on my vote to remove them.”

Ware said he believed that motorists would drive hesitantly through the intersections where the cameras were installed, or slam on their brakes to avoid citations.

“This doesn’t help make the intersections safer,” he said.

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