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Red-light cameras shut off in Geneva

Red light cameras at two intersections in Geneva, including the one at Fargo and Randall Road, were removed today because the county permit for them expired.
Red light cameras at two intersections in Geneva, including the one at Fargo and Randall Road, were removed today because the county permit for them expired.

Geneva’s two red-light cameras are being shut down today, ending a program that has been in place for three years.

Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns and Julie Nash, Geneva police patrol operations commander, say the cameras were a success. They said the cameras reduced accidents, and their installation never was about generating revenue. Others, including Bob McQuillan, Burns’ opponent in the Geneva mayoral race, disagree.

Geneva’s two red-light cameras at Randall Road and Fargo Boulevard and Randall Road and Williamsburg Avenue were to be officially deactivated at 12:01 a.m. after the three-year county permit for them expired. The cameras had been in place since March 9, 2010. Randall Road is a county-controlled road.

The removal leaves only one red-light camera in the Tri-Cities area – at the intersection of Route 31 and West Main Street in St. Charles. That light does not have to be removed because West Main Street is a state road.

Burns pointed to a decline in crashes at the two intersections since the red-light cameras have been installed and decreasing revenues generated by tickets issued. Violators faced a $100 fine.

“It has successfully changed people’s behaviors when they are approaching these intersections,” Burns said.

“It’s always been about safety, not revenues,” Burns said. “We knew full well the revenues would go away.”

McQuillan did not agree, saying “all of the data I’ve seen is that it is done as a revenue source.”

“Red-light cameras don’t increase public safety,” McQuillan said. “That should be the main reason to put them in.”

Redflex was Geneva’s vendor for the cameras. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration has decided to drop Redflex’s contract when it expires in June after evidence was uncovered that a retired city transportation manager received perks such as vacations from a Redflex executive. There are no such allegations in this area.

According to the red-light camera justification report from the Geneva Police Department, there were 21 accidents at the intersection of Randall and Fargo in 2008. That number grew to 24 in 2009 and 2010, and fell to 15 in 2011.

From Jan. 1, 2012, to March 9, 2012, there were three accidents at that intersection. Those are the latest numbers provided by the police department. Under rules established in 2010 by the County Board, the city had to reapply every year for a permit to operate the cameras.

The police department plans to release an updated report next week at the end of the red-light program, said Rhonda Sayles, Geneva Police Department records manager and Freedom of Information Act officer.

The intersection of Randall and Williamsburg has a similar accident history. According to the red-light camera system justification report, the intersection saw 18 accidents in 2008, 17 in 2009, 18 in 2010, four in 2011 and two from Jan. 1, 2012, to March 9, 2012.

From March 9, 2010, to Feb. 21, 2013, the two red-light cameras generated 14,365 violations that were available for prosecution, according to information from Redflex. After 1,679 violations were rejected, there were 12,686 approved violations.

“Every single incident was reviewed by an officer as if the officer was there,” Nash said

Nash also believes the red-light program has been a success.

“The point of the program was to try to change people’s driving habits,” she said. “We developed the program to reduce the amount of serious injury accidents.”

Nash said she will release information about the program’s success in a report next week.

The amount of revenue Geneva has received through the red-light program has fluctuated over the years. From May 2012 through January 2013, Geneva received $19,428, according to information from the city. From May 2011 through April 2012, the city received $66,000. From May 2010 to April 2011, Geneva received $377,302. During the first month of operation, March 2010 to April 2010, the city received $13,349.

Revenues have gone to the city’s general fund and the police department, Burns said.

St. Charles officials also say they have seen a decrease in accidents since Redflex in 2008 installed a red light camera at the intersection of Route 31 and West Main Street. The number of accidents dropped from 21 in 2007 to 9 in 2012, St. Charles Police Department spokesman Paul McCurtain said.

“I view it as a success,” McCurtain said.

The camera was installed after there were 42 accidents at the intersection between 2006 and 2007.

“That was unusually high for one intersection,” McCurtain said. “It was also hard to conduct enforcement at the intersection. There is no place for an officer to park a car and monitor the intersection.”

The number of tickets given at that intersection has fluctuated since the red-light camera was installed. In 2008, 82 tickets were issued, with that number jumping to 372 in 2009, then dropping to 295 in 2010.

That number dropped to 250 in 2011 and increased to 294 in 2012. This year, 29 tickets have been issued. Redflex issues the $100 tickets for red-light camera violations at this site.

“All violations first have to be reviewed by a sworn police officer,” McCurtain said.

St. Charles has received no revenues from the Redflex camera system. Revenue from paid tickets goes to Redflex to cover the cost for the camera.

The county has not banned the use of red-light cameras, but County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen is not a fan of red light cameras, viewing them as a form of “surveillance.”

“People have so much government in their lives,” Lauzen said. “They would rather be more careful themselves at a dangerous intersection.”

However, he said the County Board would review any proposal from a municipality.

“I’m not the only person who is in the decision-making process,” Lauzen said.

But it is not like other cities and villages in central Kane County are lining up to install red-light cameras. Batavia Mayor Jeff Schielke said the issue hasn’t come up since more than 60 percent of Batavia voters in the early 1990s rejected a plan to use photo radar to issue tickets to speeding motorists along Kirk Road and other streets.

Batavia resident Yvonne Dinwiddie helped lead the fight against the use of photo radar, and said she would be opposed red-light cameras.

“All they appear to be is a revenue raiser,” Dinwiddie said.

Sugar Grove Village Administrator Brent Eichelberger said officials discussed the issue a few years ago.

“The general consensus was there was no real interest in doing it,” he said.

Elburn Village President Dave Anderson noted the village only has two signalized intersections, so he didn’t see a need for red-light cameras. But he said he has no opinion on them.

“I have no feelings either way,” he said.

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