Palos Heights switches camera vendors

'No profit' from red-light cameras, says official in Palos Heights

Palos Heights is switching to a new red light traffic enforcement system for two busy intersections.

The city's agreement with SafeSpeed LLC of Chicago, replaces a contract with Redflex, the enforcement system used since 2009. The cameras are expected to help prevent traffic accidents, though city officials said the new contract will also produce a little more money for the city than the previous one. The City Council approved the four-year contract with SafeSpeed, with two, two-year renewals. The city's received bids for the service from SafeSpeed and Redflex.

The red light cameras are at southbound Harlem Avenue at College Drive and westbound 135th Street and Ridgeland Avenue, two of the busiest intersections.

Under the new contract, the city pays SafeSpeed LLC $500 a month for maintenance, service and repair, a record of possible traffic violations, processing, printing and mailing of violations and court support services.

First violations at the two intersections are $100 and if not paid within 14 days, the fine increases to $200.

SafeSpeed LLC will receive $40 per $100 ticket until the fines total $500, after which the city receives all fines revenue, according to Ald. Jerry McGovern, who heads the Public Safety Committee. Under the Redflex agreement, the city paid $4,000 per month for camera pictures of possible violations, plus $4.80 per ticket, he said. Ticket money goes into the city's general fund.

"The city was unable to make any profit from the Redflex contract," said McGovern.

SafeSpeed LLC does an initial screening of possible traffic violations on the camera, omitting cases where the camera malfunctioned, the driver did not actually run the red light, no license plate was visible or readable, or the vehicle was yielding the right-of-way to an emergency vehicle or was part of a funeral procession. Then Palos Heights police officers check the potential violations before any tickets are sent out.

"Our police department is not going to write a ticket for a red light violation unless the police officer who reviews the incident really thinks a ticket is warranted," McGovern said.

Mayor Bob Straz emphasized the main purpose of the cameras was safety, not money.

"In reality, this is really not a money-maker for us and we don't look at it as a punitive type of situation," said Straz. "It's more to prevent speeding, illegal turns and accidents."

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