Early numbers positive for red light camera revenue
By Seth Thomas Gulledge
The Daily Reflector
Thursday, December 7, 2017
Greenville’s new traffic light camera system would gross as much as $4.4 million in the coming year from red-light runners based on numbers from a 30-day warning period, officials said. That would generate about $3 million for new technology in the public school system.
A total of 3,661 warning tickets were issued during the grace period between Oct. 15 and Nov. 15, according to the Greenville Police Department. At $100 per ticket, the tickets would have generated $116,600 for American Traffic Solutions, which installed and maintains the system, and $226,400 for the schools. The schools are obligated to pay the City of Greenville $6,250 a month for an officer to issue tickets.
The number of tickets issued more than halfway through the first month of full operation are consistent with the number of warning tickets issued through the same amount of time, said Kristen Hunter, the police department’s public information officer.
The cameras were installed at five intersections throughout the city. During the warning period, the intersection of Arlington and Greenville Boulevards saw the most violations by far with 1,395 tickets issued. The intersection of Charles Boulevard and 14th Street, the next most ticketed of the five, saw 722 warning tickets during the same period.
Hunter said department hopes the warning period would have alerted reduced the number of people running red lights at the intersections but that has not occurred yet. She said it is likely that the program will issue a similar number of tickets during its first 30 days.
If the program is successful in meeting its goal of reducing the number of red light violations at the intersections, the number of tickets and the revenue they generate will decrease. She said it was too early to tell if there would be a point in the future when too few tickets were being issued to adequately fund the operation of the cameras.
“The ultimate goal is voluntary compliance,” she said. ”... We can’t predict the future at this point and will have to continue to monitor the program’s progress. For now, they’re here to stay.”
District 4 Councilman Rick Smiley said he was not concerned about the financial burden the lights could have on the city. In fact, he said the the worst possible financial outcome would be the preferred safety outcome.
“If we put these cameras in and people slow down and don’t run as many red lights, and the county gets a few hundred thousand dollars for the schools and the streets become safer, that’s a home-run,” he said. “If people stop running red lights totally, and the city lost a whole lot of money on the red light camera but nobody ever died at these intersections, that’s a grand slam home run. It’s almost like the worst financial outcome for us is the best policy outcome.”
The registered owners of vehicles caught running red lights have to pay the $100 civil penalty. They can view the violation online and pay without appearing in court. No points will be assessed on their license. There is an additional $100 late fee if the fine is not paid on time.
The city contracted with American Traffic Solutions to install, maintain and operate the cameras. For each $100 fine, the company receives $31.85. According to Brock Letchworth, the public information officer for the city, there is no minimum or maximum amount the company can receive negotiated in the contract.
The remainder of the fine, $68.15 per ticket, is given to the Pitt County Board of Education to be used in local schools. The school system is required to pay the city $6,250 per month, in order to pay for the salary and benefits of a Greenville police officer who will approve tickets.
During the March 2017 City Council meeting when the camera program was approved, Chief Mark Holtzman said having a sworn officer as the final authority was important to him. The officer reviews images of the infraction and verifies the registration and license plate of the vehicle before issuing each ticket.
For now, it seems likely that the tickets will easily provide the $6,250 a month for the officer. If the warning period had resulted in actual fines. A total of 92 tickets per month will be necessary to generate enough revenue for the school system to pay the city the monthly obligation.
On average during the warning period, 122 tickets were issued each day. The intersection with the least amount of tickets, Arlington Boulevard and Memorial Drive, would have brought the school system $21,603 in the first month with the 317 tickets issued there.
In total, the warning period would have resulted in ATS receiving $116,602.85 in funds and the school system receiving $249,497.15. If ticket numbers remain constant, the school system would see $2,918,965 in additional revenue per year, and ATS would receive $1,399,234.
Travis Lewis, director of Community and Student Services for Pitt County Schools, said officials have earmarked the revenues broadly for technology. He said officials will have to create a more specific proposal and present it to the Board of Education for approval once they have a better idea of how much funding they will be receiving.
Contact Seth Gulledge at Sgulledge@reflector.com and 329-9579. Follow him on Twitter @GulledgeSeth