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Red light cams: If you’re not in the pic, it’s not legit

By Eric Kurhi
Thursday, October 13th, 2011 at 4:44 pm in Crime, General, Hayward, Transportation.

Hayward’s police chief is working to fix a hole in the system regarding red-light cameras, one that allows some violators to get away without paying a $300  ticket (that’s what they cost these days, right?) simply by doing nothing.

It comes down to the difference between a Notice to Appear and a Notice of Violation. The former is what a driver gets when they sail through a red light, the camera flashes and upon review it’s clear as day that the registered owner of the vehicle is indeed behind the wheel. Out of 1,560 drivers caught on camera each month, about 500 get one of these notices.

"I sense something, a presence I've not felt since......." (FLASH!) “…. NOOOOO!!!”

A Notice of Violation, on the other hand, is asking the owner for a little help in identifying the driver. Maybe it’s a friend or relative, or the photo was snapped while  the driver was headed to a Star Wars-themed Halloween party, or maybe it was a rental or company car and only a search of records would reveal who did the deed. About 730 violators get one of these. And of these, 250 just ignore the notice.

It’s fairly labor intensive to investigate each case where the notice isn’t returned — it involves pulling DMV photos of relatives and people living at the vehicle owner’s address, comparing them with the RedFlex photo, that sort of stuff. About 62 hours of staff time per month, it’s estimated. And that’s staff time that can be spent elsewhere, on other police work, and that’s exactly what’s happening right now. “Due to limited staffing, non-responses are not being processed,” according to the PowerPoint presentation given to the City Council on Tuesday.

But Chief Diane Urban is working to change that.

Urban suggests a restructuring of the staff that reviews the violations, using two community service officers and a per diem officer to do more work for less money than the current setup, which includes one full-time sworn officer and a CSO. That would allow better pursuit of those scofflaws who don’t return tickets, for a gain — between saved staff salary and additional fines collected — of about $14,700 a month. Right now the program brings the city about $10,700 per month – the real money maker is RedFlex, the company the city rents the cameras from. The city pays them about $59,000 monthly.

And a sworn officer would then be put back on the streets, which Urban says is the best use for someone with a badge anyway.

As a side note, the chief said they are in the process of changing the way they deploy traffic officers, with an emphasis on the areas around the 10 intersections in the city most prone to crashes. She said a similar effort she spearheaded in San Jose yielded a 22 percent reduction in crashes overall. Some of those notable intersections: Foothill at Grove. Hesperian at A. Tennyson between Patrick and Tampa. Santa Clara and Jackson.

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  • qodrn

    Are you telling me that a city that has no money is losing almost 50,000 a month on these silly cameras?

    This is almost as bad as the almost 1200 bucks a month the school district spends on the geese!

  • The Silent Observer

    The geese are a problem about 3 months of the year (autumn), so I’m sure the district isn’t paying $1200.00 every month. They really are a nuisance at the schools.

  • Eric Kurhi

    Qodrn — after the $59K RedFlex fee and paying staff (and a little bit for electricity) the city currently takes in about $10K a month via the camera program. In a nutshell, gross revenue of the program is $95K, expenses are $85K. Details in the staff report, here.

  • Fred Sandsmark

    Thanks for the info – and for the laugh, with the photo and caption.

  • qodrn

    Thanks Eric.

    About the geese, they started paying in July.

  • qodrn

    If they don’t leave tomorrow, everyone should take a few minutes to watch the ferris wheel at the carnival at Southland. Way cool.

  • Monica

    I saw the ferris wheel last night and it is way cool.

  • qodrn

    While waiting for son at school, had the experience of listening to the Mt. Eden high school marching band. While I really don’t like marching music, they sounded really good and mostly all stopped together which is not that easy to do when you are marching with a tuba. Low, the geese came home for the day. Geese went to home field. HOnk! Angry geese converge on baseball field and cover it. The geese rule!

  • Anwar

    Why are Hayward citizens being filmed? Is stopping a few red lights worth the risk of having us practically under traffic surveillance?