Hoffman bill would allow speed cameras downstate

News-DemocratFebruary 27, 2014 

State Rep. Jay Hoffman.

DERIK HOLTMANN — dholtmann@bnd.com

State Rep. Jay Hoffman wants to expand Illinois' speed-camera law so that not just Chicago can install the devices.

An Illinois law, passed by the legislature in 2011 and signed by Gov. Pat Quinn in 2012, currently allows speed cameras only in cities that have more than 1 million residents -- meaning only Chicago.

A bill filed this month by Hoffman, D-Belleville, would strike the section of the speed-camera law that says it applies only to cities of more than 1 million residents.

Hoffman's bill doesn't state any particular cities where he wants speed cameras allowed. Hoffman said the goal is to "make it one uniform law for the whole state."

He said Thursday there weren't any metro-east municipalities that approached him about wanting speed cameras.

"Some of the school organizations that represent school administrators talked to us about it, for safety purposes," Hoffman said. "I don't want to mandate it, but to allow the option statewide, instead of just Chicago. It would just give the option to local school boards and local municipalities, who would have to approve it if they have a safety issue and want these devices."

The current law allows installation of speed cameras only in a "safety zone" -- an area within one-eighth of a mile of a school or public park. It allows a fine up to $100 for a speeding violation.

The law specifies that revenue from speed cameras can be used only for public safety initiatives or construction and maintenance of infrastructure.

Proponents of speed cameras say they improve safety for pedestrians and reduce traffic crashes. Critics argue that some cities view the cameras as money machines. In their first month of activation last year, speed cameras in Chicago churned out 2,722 tickets and $245,160 in fines, according to published reports.

Currently, 12 states have speed cameras in at least one location. Twelve states have enacted laws that prohibit the use of speed cameras; all of the other states permit speed cameras in at least some areas.

The bill is awaiting action in a transportation subcommittee in the House. There is one listed proponent -- Peoria County -- and one listed opponent, the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police Labor Council, which is a police union. The police union's director did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Belleville Mayor Mark Eckert said Thursday he had not yet seen the legislation. He said it's too early to say if Belleville would be interested in speed cameras.

"I'd like to do my research before I could even make a guess," Eckert said.

Troy Mayor Al Adomite said he's "personally very opposed" to speed cameras, and doubts the city would have any interest in installing them.

"We're working on becoming more community-oriented, in terms of our policing," Adomite said. "I don't know if speed cameras would fit very well with that."

A spokeswoman for the Peoria County Board said the county itself is not seeking speed cameras, but the city of Peoria is interested. Peoria's city manager, Patrick Urich, said in a memo to legislators that speed cameras have proven effective as a safety measure.

"Police resources are stretched thin, making traffic enforcement less of a priority," Urich said in the memo. "However, traffic accidents -- often caused by excessive speeds -- continue to significantly impact lives and property. Technology exists to help communities combat speeding, but current state laws prohibit its use outside the city of Chicago."

Illinois' current law requires cities to post signs where speed cameras are in use, and to list the locations on the city's website.

Contact reporter Brian Brueggemann at bbrueggemann@bnd.com or 239-2511.

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