Number of cars running red lights up 107% since cameras went dark, company study says

By Jessica Mazzola | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on June 18, 2015

NEWARK — City leaders are not giving up a fight to get red light cameras reinstated, and now they say they have the statistics to back the battle up.

According to tallies released this week by the Traffic Safety Coalition, the number of vehicles that ran red lights at the 19 intersections in Newark previously covered by cameras has gone up 107 percent since the cameras were turned off in December.

Comparing data that the group said it collected via ground sensors at the intersections, red light runs at some intersections, like Broad and Murray Streets, jumped 315 percent between the same 30-day period in 2014 and 2015. The city, the study said, has continued to collect data at the intersections, but has not been able to dole out summonses since the cameras shut off in December of last year.

During the five-year statewide pilot program, the red light cameras "basically monitored these intersections 24/7," said Jack Nata, Manager of Newark's Division of Traffic and Signals.

"The only way we would be able to do that now would be to physically put officers at all 19 intersections...it would be virtually impossible."

City officials said they did not yet have accident or revenue data available to show whether or not the end of the program has affected crash rates at the intersections, or how much revenue the city has lost as a result of the cameras going dark.

According to data collected by NJ Advance Media earlier this year, Newark collected about $3.2 million in revenue each year the program ran.

As city officials arguing in favor of the cameras' return are citing safety statistics, the revenue has prompted opponents of the program to question the numbers.

"It is such demonstrably phony data that it is laughable," said state Assemblyman Declan O'Scanlon (R-Monmouth), who has been a vocal opponent of red light cameras throughout the state.

"If you are going to tell a lie, at least have it be possible that the lie is the truth. In this case, it isn't."

According to O'Scanlon, the increase cited in the coalition's report would mean that more people are running red lights in Newark now than they were before the camera program began.

"Unless people are going out en masse to celebrate the end of red light cameras...it's ridiculous," he said.

The Traffic Safety Coalition is funded by the traffic safety camera industry, and managed by Resolute Consulting, a public affairs firm that has been embroiled in controversy surrounding red light camera programs across the country. According to the Chicago Tribune, the former CEO of the red light camera company Redflex was indicted on federal corruption charges last year, alleging she bribed a retired Chicago official in exchange for assistance with the company's red light camera contracts in that city.

Resolute was paid by Redflex to establish the coalition and conduct studies, the newspaper reported.

But, Newark city officials have stood behind the numbers.

These statistics "mean that there is a 315 percent higher chance that someone might get injured," Nata said. "When our camera program was active it saved lives and allowed our officers to focus on other serious crimes."

The argument surrounding the numbers comes as two bills have been proposed in the state assembly – one sponsored by O'Scanlon and others that would prohibit the future use of red light cameras in the state, and one put forward by Essex legislators that would allow municipalities to install red light cameras at approved intersections.

Last December, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka held a press conference supporting the program's continuation in the city, and addressing detractors who allege that the city has been supporting questionable statistics.

"Anybody that is saved because of the red light cameras existence means that the program is successful in my eyes," Baraka said.

 

 

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