By LESLIE COLLINS
December 18, 2013
For the moment, Kansas City drivers won’t have to worry about receiving red light camera tickets, but the city hasn’t given up on the ticketing system just yet.
Heeding the advice of City Attorney Bill Geary, members of the city’s Public Safety and Emergency Services Committee postponed making any changes to the city’s red light camera ordinance. Originally, the committee planned to tweak the ordinance, placing red light camera violations on the shoulders of the driver as opposed to the owner of the vehicle. However, Geary recommended the committee hold off on changes to “let the legal process continue and flow.”
The Western District Missouri Court of Appeals recently questioned the legality of the city’s red light camera system, including whether or not the city installed the cameras to create another revenue stream.
“We can easily show we’ve done this for public safety reasons,” Geary said. “We’re relatively unique in the country because our vendor’s not paid based upon the number of tickets written; our vendor is paid a set price per month to operate the cameras for us in the intersections we dictate.”
Geary added that the city chose the red light camera intersection locations based on the number of traffic accidents, not intersections with the most stop light violations.
“Police have told us time and time again statistically this works; it reduces the number of wrecks,” Committee member Scott Taylor said. “The wrecks have decreased at the intersections where these red light cameras are located.”
“As we get safer, the program costs more to us,” Geary said. “But the equation is, is it worth a life, is it worth the property…?”
Currently, red light cameras are installed at 17 intersections throughout Kansas City. The Kansas City Police Department (KCPD) has postponed issuing additional red light camera violation tickets until the court case has been resolved. Currently, all red light camera tickets are on hold, and warrants will not be issued for those who fail to pay their ticket.
Committee member John Sharp said KCPD is providing additional coverage at the 17 intersections and that “nobody should feel like they’re going to get a free pass.”
Geary said the city has requested the case be transferred to the Missouri Supreme Court.
“I think we need to remind people this is working,” Taylor said. “We are committed to it still; we need to work through these different issues in the courts, but we are still supportive as a council of this program.”