GREEN COVE SPRINGS – The city’s three red light cameras are up for renewal at next week’s city council meeting.
The program has helped the city collect almost $3 million in fines since the 2010-2011 fiscal year, which doesn’t account for the cost for law enforcement staff time to monitor the process. The money goes into the general fund.
The cameras have earned a figure closer to $8.5 million, but the state Department of Revenue, averaging $560,000, and contractor American Traffic Systems, averaging $250,000 a year, take a cut.
There were 12,208 tickets were issued in 2018.The three cameras are located where U.S. 17 intersects Harbor Road, Ferris Street and Houston Street. The cost for each camera the city pays is the same: $4,200 a month for each camera.
A bill was introduced in the state Legislature aiming to ban red light cameras altogether. Numerous bills have been introduced and struck down in the last decade, and local governments have faced criticism from residents. In 2016, a Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles survey found crashed increased about 10 percent at intersections in reporting cities after a red-light camera was installed, though there wasn’t clear evidence that the crash increase was solely the camera’s fault.
City Manager Steve Kennedy said he would be surprised if the Legislature eliminated the cameras. The city only receives 22-25 percent of the total revenue, and he wondered the financial hit if the state lost funds from Orlando and Miami.
“They [the state] gets about 52 percent of the fees. In the 2017-2018 fiscal year, the state got over $700,000 off the $1.3 million total,” Kennedy said. “That's off of three intersections.”
Kennedy said he understood some residents could be frustrated by the cameras. He called the cameras leverage to make the area safer.
“Once you get in your car on a public highway, your expectation of privacy goes out the door. It’s not like you’re driving on your own street. It’s a city street where other people are,” Kennedy said. “Our laws say you can’t run a red light, that’s why they’re there. You run one, and just because an officer doesn’t observe that, doesn’t mean it’s not a violation of the law.”
The contract adds license plate readers to assist law enforcement with quicker updates, who must read the plates.
Green Cove Springs Police Chief Derek Asdot welcomed the license plate scanners and council members voiced support of the program at previous meetings.
“The cameras slow people down,” Asdot said.