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Red-light camera programs have been on the wane for years, but two South Florida cities are looking to reverse that trend.

Pembroke Pines is starting its program back up, with tickets set to be issued on Aug. 25. Boynton Beach voted Tuesday night to turn its cameras back on.

The two cities join Davie, Sunrise, Tamarac and West Park in Broward and 16 cities in Miami-Dade County that still operate red-light camera systems. Those caught running a red light face an initial fine of $158. But if that violation notice isn’t paid within 60 days, it becomes a traffic ticket that carries a $250 fine that can be disputed in court.

Cities usually cite public safety concerns for using the cameras. Yet a 2016 report by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles found that accidents at intersections with red-light cameras increased by 10 percent over the past year. Pedestrian-involved accidents, however, decreased by almost 20 percent.

The study also found that the number of citations went up even as the number of cameras in use dropped.

There were 796 cameras in use on July 1, 2015, but that dropped to 688 the next year. Despite that, the number of citations rose from 963,039 to 1,227,927.

And almost three-quarters of camera programs cited drivers for turning right on red lights, even though the law prevents officials from issuing violations if right turns at red lights are made in a “careful and prudent manner.”

Boynton Beach, the last city in Palm Beach County to use red-light cameras, turned the system off at the end of last year. With Tuesday’s vote, it’s the only one of the county’s 39 municipalities to support a red-light camera program.

City Commissioner Mack McCray said he had asked to reconsider the contract because he had seen driver behavior change since the cameras went dark. Vice Mayor Justin Katz and Mayor Steven Grant both said they were voting in the interest of public safety.

“I feel that even if you save one life, it is worth it. I feel we are doing the right thing,” Boynton resident Woodrow Hay said at the meeting.

Pembroke Pines shut its program down in 2013, citing cost overruns. But city officials continued discussing ways to bring it back in a scaled-down version.

On June 1, the city turned on eight cameras, six on Pines Boulevard between Flamingo Road and 129th Avenue. The two other cameras are on Johnson Street and Pembroke Road. That mirrors efforts in other cities, where cameras tend to be placed at high-traffic areas.

The city gave drivers a 30-day warning period through June, and then extended the warning phase to Aug. 24.


City Commissioner Angelo Castillo said Pembroke Pines has always relied on its police officers to screen videos for possible violations, rather than delegate those duties to an agency with no law enforcement authority.

That’s significant because in 2014, a state appeals court found that Hollywood had ceded too much police power to a private entity when it delegated that authority to American Traffic Solutions, the Arizona-based company that installed its camera network. That ruling led other cities around Florida to shut down their camera systems.

However, after that appellate ruling, a separate appellate court ruling found in favor of the camera systems. It now goes to the Florida Supreme Court, which announced in May it would take up the case.

A federal class-action suit demanding the return of fines paid by motorists under the potentially illegal law is on hold pending that review.

Tony Velazquez, a resident of the Spring Valley neighborhood in Pembroke Pines, said the city seems focused on making money off tickets.

“It’s more of a revenue generator than anything. I never heard of the police using the cameras to solve other crimes,” he said.

The idea that red-light cameras are more about making money than promoting public safety has been at the heart of repeal efforts in Tallahassee practically since the Legislature legalized the systems in 2010.

This year, a House bill that would have repealed the red-light camera law was sponsored by 17 state representatives from both parties and passed the House 91-22. But on the Senate side, the bill failed to pass its first committee hearing.

-Via SunSentinel

May 29, 2018