COLLIER COUNTY — Collier County drivers may have to wait until later this month until the red-light enforcement issue is resolved.
And if Collier County Citizens Traffic Coalition members have anything to say about, the county’s new red-light camera system, and fine scale, will be refined. Residents turned out at a County Commission meeting last week to applaud or blast the new cameras that catch red-light runners, specifically, those who don’t pause long enough before they make right-hand turns on a red.
The next commission meeting is at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 13, in commission chambers on the third floor of the W. Harmon Turner Building, 3301 U.S. 41 E.
While Collier County commissioners say they didn’t believe the intent of the new cameras was to catch those who jump a right turn on a red, those are the majority of drivers who have been caught.
The initial $125 citation issued is now under consideration by county officials, who are reviewing a tiered system, starting at $65 or $75.
County Attorney Jeff Klatzkow told commissioners last week that he cannot think of any way that the county can refund fines already paid.
Asked how long a stop lasts, Lt. Harold Minch, who oversees the Collier County Sheriff’s Office’s traffic unit, said there isn’t a count by seconds.
“All you need to do is stop. There’s no time (limit) on it,” Minch said.
“Once you stop, that’s when you start making your decisions.”
If one does come to a stop then slowly rolls up, encroaching into the pedestrian crosswalk to see if the turn is clear, that driver will not be fined, Minch said.
“If you can’t see, you can’t pull out,” Minch said.
This is not a new law, Minch stressed.
How it is enforced is a new process.
First off, the cameras installed at intersections are maintained by an Arizona-based company called American Traffic Systems. That company also maintains records of suspected violations.
One must pay his or her fine at the Code Enforcement office at 2800 Horseshoe Drive, not the Clerk of Court office, but will not be able to discuss the violation at the pay site.
What that means is, if you go to the courthouse or code enforcement to discuss the infraction, you will be referred to an outsourced company and Web site.
Or, if you think you may have jumped the light and want to check, before a citation ends up in your mailbox, there is no way to do so.
You cannot go to the courthouse and enter your last name into a computer. You cannot go to code enforcement and ask them to enter your last name into the computer. That information just isn’t available in Collier County unless a citation has been issued.
It can take four to six weeks for the ticket to show up in your mailbox.
You need a citation number and a personal identification number attached to your specific citation.
Code Enforcement Director Diane Flagg said that Web site is www.violationinfo.com. The top of a screen will say AXSIS Violation Processing System. You can only get into the system by typing in the violation number and personal ID number. Sign in will lead one to a page containing icons for live or still pictures, capturing a tag number and two overviews.
And oddly, all notices from ATS are sent to the county’s purchasing department, not to the Sheriff’s Office or code enforcement.
One pays at that Web site.
According to the contract the county signed, it is ATS who hires the special magistrate who listens to appeals, if someone challenges a ticket.
Monday morning, members of the Citizens Traffic Coalition members met with county officials to review the process.
Peter Gaddy said Minch told Citizens Traffic Coalition members that the Sheriff’s Office has seven officers reviewing the tapes, but has a backlog of 1,900 tapes.
Right now, it looks like no citation will be issued unless a tape was reviewed by a deputy, not trainee, Gaddy said Tuesday.
ATS issued 312 citations in June, 212 in July, 3,730 in August, and 1,264 as of Sept. 22.
The citations were issued at the following intersections: Airport Pulling Road (northbound) at Davis Road; Pine Ridge Road at (eastbound) at Airport Road; Pine Ridge Road (eastbound) at Livingston Road; Pine Ridge Road (westbound) at Livingston Road; Airport Road (northbound) at Livingston Road; Collier Boulevard (northbound) at Golden Gate Parkway; Golden Gate Parkway (eastbound) at Collier Boulevard; Pine Ridge Road (westbound) at U.S. 41; and Vanderbilt Beach Road (westbound) at U.S. 41.
Some turned out last week to praise commissioners for installing the cameras and program, primarily those who are visually impaired.
Sandra Martin said she’s appreciative of the new efforts to enforce traffic at intersections, as is her guard dog Anna.
On the other hand, Ann Marie O’Neill told commissioners that the cameras are somewhat impersonal.
Marjorie Burnham has already received two traffic citations. Burnham, who had appealed one ticket before Magistrate Brenda Garretson, and lost, told commissioners that if citations were mailed out in a more timely manner, meaning, faster than four to six weeks, she would know what she had done wrong, and would not have incurred the second violation.