Metro-East News

Illinois House votes to limit red-light cameras

The Illinois House approved a bill Wednesday that would limit which cities can use red-light cameras to issue traffic citations.

Current law allows eight large counties in Illinois — including St. Clair and Madison — to use red-light cameras.

The bill would allow only home-rule communities in Illinois to utilize red-light cameras. Home-rule communities in the metro-east include Belleville, Cahokia, East St. Louis, Edwardsville, Fairview Heights, Collinsville, Granite City and O’Fallon.

One of the co-sponsors of the bill, which now goes to the Senate, is Rep. Dwight Kay, R-Glen Carbon.

“Red-light cameras have been abused by the City of Chicago,” Kay said. “The issue with red-light cameras seems to be about revenue and not public safety. Quite often motorists receive traffic tickets imposed by a red-light camera without even breaking any traffic laws. To make matters worse, if you are innocent, it can be quite a hassle to receive due process by proving your innocence.”

Kay voted in favor of the bill, along with the following metro-east House members: Rep. Dan Beiser, D-Alton; John Cavaletto, R-Salem; Jerry Costello II, D-Smithton; Charlie Meier, R-Okawville; and Eddie Lee Jackson, D-East St. Louis. Voting against the bill was Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Belleville, who has said the option ought to be left to local leaders.

Metro-east communities which have employed red-light cameras include East St. Louis and Granite City.

Granite City has had a red-light camera since 2009. It’s located at Madison Avenue and 27th Street. Police Chief Rich Miller said the camera has netted about $200,000 in fines since its installation. The net takes into account the fee paid to a vendor.

Miller said the Granite City camera is located at a high-traffic intersection that previously saw a crash every couple of weeks. “It’s virtually eliminated the accidents,” Miller said.

A Granite City officer reviews video footage for every alleged violation before a citation is issued. The officer spends about three hours per week conducting those reviews.

“We have an officer that looks at every violation,” Miller said, but he added that it’s “cheaper than me stationing a patrolman there.”

The Granite City red light has picked up 14,424 alleged violations since its installation. But after the video footage was reviewed by an officer, only 11,200 citations were issued.

East St. Louis Police had a red-light camera at one point but abandoned the program because the city wasn’t receiving ticket money that a vendor supposedly was collecting from traffic violators.

Cities using red-light cameras say the goal is to reduce fatalities and injuries at dangerous intersections without adding costs.

Kay said, “Traffic violations should be left to our law enforcement — not cameras.”

Opponents of the bill include the Illinois Municipal League.

Critics argue that some cities view red-light cameras and speed cameras as money machines.