Bremerton City Councilwoman Leslie Daugs is taking on the city’s red light photo enforcement system.
In a lengthy opinion piece published Friday, she scrutinizes the falling revenues from the program and believes that it has become a cost to city government, rather than a benefit for it. She acknowledges some “traffic calming” effects but believes it may be time for the cameras to go.
“It’s time to re-evaluate the best way to keep our citizens safe, and be good stewards of our tax dollars,” she wrote.
I talked with Daugs Wednesday night about why she’s taking on the cause. Daugs acknowledged that part of her motivation was a Kitsap Sun investigation that found last year the cameras are close to losing the city money, do little to enhance safety and are run by a company that has been embroiled in scandal of late.
She has also had concerns over the easy way many people get out of a red light ticket: just say you’re not driving. Her stats indicate that of the 6,609 tickets issued in 2014, 1,086 were dismissed.
Like many photo enforcement programs around the country and the state, Bremerton’s was lucrative from its onset. The city took in $842,580 in 2008. Over the past five years, motorists have paid $4.3 million in fines, with $2.6 million going to Redflex.
But the amount collected dwindled to $570,775 in 2013. The drop in citations issued between 2012 and 2013 was the biggest ever — a decrease of about 2,500 tickets.
Factoring in the $432,000 the city pays each year to Redflex, the margins are thinning for the city.
“There is an obvious trend here,” Daugs says in her letter. “At this rate the cameras will soon cost the city money, rather than bringing in revenue.”
She believes the program has “harmed working families,” and despises the idea that governments would target the people simple to produce revenue.
“I am wary of replacing thinking, feeling, human police officers with the unblinking camera eye — and I object to exporting Bremerton dollars to Phoenix,” she wrote.
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