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Waukegan pumps the brakes on renewal of red-light camera contract

Drivers eastbound Belvidere Road approach intersectiwith Green Bay Road Waukegan one four crossroads city with red-light cameras operated by RedSpeed

Drivers on eastbound Belvidere Road approach the intersection with Green Bay Road in Waukegan, one of four crossroads in the city with red-light cameras operated by RedSpeed Illinois since 2007-08. | Dan Moran/Sun-Times Media

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Updated: April 6, 2014 3:50AM

Complaints about tickets issued for right turns on red and concern over how much revenue is being generated from Waukegan’s red-light cameras prompted a City Council committee to delay renewal this week of a contract with RedSpeed Illinois, the Lombard-based vendor that has managed the city’s cameras since 2007.

Sixth Ward Ald. Larry TenPas asked that the matter be held over in the Public Safety Committee on Monday, Feb. 3, after saying that the cameras were intended to cut down on crashes but “let me tell you the real story, which I want to know — how many tickets are written for (somebody) running through a red light, and how many have we written for somebody not stopping completely on a right turn?”

“I go up to Kenosha, and you know what they tell you up there? Please yield on red,” TenPas said. “Now, why in the hell would Wisconsin tell me to go on a red light as long as I stop and look?”

TenPas added that “I’d like to know how much money the city got (from RedSpeed). How much money did they get, and are they willing to negoiate what they take?”

Police Chief Wayne Walles said he did not have figures available Monday on either the number of tickets issued for failure to stop on a right turn or total revenue fielded from RedSpeed in the recent past.

Walles agreed to a request from TenPas to have representatives from RedSpeed come in for the next committee meeting, scheduled for March 3, to provide information.

The city signed its first contract with RedSpeed in spring 2007 and installed its first cameras the following October at Lewis and Sunset avenues. Along with that intersection, the program was expanded in 2008 to include Belvidere and Green Bay roads, Grand Avenue and Green Bay, and Lewis and Glen Flora.

Under the terms of the agreement, the city pays $5.99 per digital image of an alleged violation, which is reviewed by a Waukegan Police Department officer. The officer, who has “sole, unilateral, and exclusive decision” to determine whether or not a violation has occurred, must make a decision within seven days of an incident.

Among the criteria used to evaluate whether or not a violation has occurred includes the vehicle’s position relative to stop lines, and “the duration of time that a traffic light must remain red prior to a violation being deemed to have occurred.”

When Waukegan renewed a three-year pact with RedSpeed in March 2011, the deal called for the city to pay $1,499 per month for each camera in operation. At that time, revenue was down more than half from what was fielded in the first year of operation.

According to figures released in early 2011, the cameras generated $514,922 during the 2008-09 fiscal year, then dropped to $410,560 for 2009-10. During the 2010-11 fiscal year, revnues dropped to around $200,000.

Fifth Ward Ald. Edith Newsome said she would be interested to see where the revenues sit at this point.

“After three years, we need an update on that,” she said. “I know that they were probably writing a lot of tickets in the beginning, but is it worth having now?”

Walles told Newsome that “I don’t have exact numbers, but I can tell you that behavior has curbed at those locations.”

Second Ward Ald. Thomas Koncan Jr., who chairs the Public Safety Committee, said the RedSpeed contract expires on March 9, so the matter would have to be resolved before then. He also expressed suprise that all of the red-light cameras were still active.

“I didn’t know that they were up and running,” Koncan said. “I (saw) them stop flashing a long time ago.”

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