Collier red-light cameras out for good

In this file photo, American Traffic Solutions field technician Israel Rodriguez installs new red-light cameras aimed at the intersection of Airport-Pulling and Pine Ridge Roads on Thursday, Feb. 11, 2010, in Naples.

Photo by DAVID ALBERS // Buy this photo

In this file photo, American Traffic Solutions field technician Israel Rodriguez installs new red-light cameras aimed at the intersection of Airport-Pulling and Pine Ridge Roads on Thursday, Feb. 11, 2010, in Naples.

Collier County's red-light cameras are gone for good.

Commissioners voted 3 to 1 Tuesday to deny Commissioner Donna Fiala's request to bring back the red-light camera contract. Fiala dissented. Commissioner Fred Coyle was not present for the vote.

The vote was met with applause from the audience.

Fiala said she wanted to bring back the red-light camera contract for discussion after getting feedback from the community and after reading Naples Daily News columns advocating that they stay.

Commissioners voted 3 to 2 in December to end the contract with American Traffic Solutions, the company that operates the cameras, effective Feb. 28.

At speeches to civic and homeowners groups recently, Fiala said, audience members have told her that they are more motivated to stop at red lights knowing the cameras are there.

"They now think twice," Fiala said.

The discussion about keeping the red light cameras got heated at times, with Commission Chairwoman Georgia Hiller pressing Sheriff Kevin Rambosk on his position.

"I'm not hearing clearly enough what I'd hoped to hear from you," Hiller told Rambosk.

Rambosk at first said he believed the red-lights cameras help to reduce accidents at intersections, along with education and traffic engineering, but later said he did not favor renewing the red-light contract with American Traffic Solutions. He earlier called it a policy decision for commissioners.

Commissioner Tom Henning said the push to keep the cameras was backed by an industry robo-calling operation that sent messages of support to County Commission offices, support he suggested was suspect. Fiala said she was "very insulted" by Henning's comments.

"I'm doing it for your safety, my safety and my kids' safety," Fiala said.

Commissioner Fred Coyle, siding with Fiala, said the cameras are new technology to make it easier to catch red-light runners. To accomplish the same level of enforcement without cameras, patrol cars would have to be stationed at those intersections.

"It's going to be a very difficult and expensive process and taxpayers are going to be the ones to pay for it," Coyle said.

But the most compelling speaker on the issue might have been former Florida Highway Patrol Officer Paul Henry, who told commissioners there was no change in the number of crashes before the cameras installed at the intersections and after the cameras were installed at the intersection within an 18-month time period.

Collier County currently has cameras at 19 approaches and 10 intersections. The county monitors left turn and straight movements, but not right turns. In 2012, ATS issued 10,834 violations, an average of 903 per month.

But Henry said the system is flawed because violators are considered guilty until proven innocent. However, they cannot go to court unless they fail to pay the ticket and, when they do go to court, no one from the company is there to authenticate the evidence.

Further, he said the data from the cameras goes to the company first, not the sheriff's department, and the automatic devices which catch the light runners are not required to be inspected by a third party on a regular basis.

The solution to the problem, he said, is the timing of the yellow lights in the county, which is currently under review by the county.

Fiala said she just wanted to do everything she could to reduce the number of red light runners in the county. Nance said the cameras were the wrong thing wrapped up in all the right reasons.

Henning agreed.

“There is no substantial evidence that this reduces the number of crashes,” he said.

In other business, commissioners postponed discussion on the county's new animal control ordinance. Henning told commissioners he would like to see the ordinance discussed in a workshop to be held at a later date.

Staff writer Eric Staats contributed to this story.

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Comments » 1

ajm3s writes:

"But the most compelling speaker on the issue might have been former Florida Highway Patrol Officer Paul Henry, who told commissioners there was no change in the number of crashes before the cameras installed at the intersections and after the cameras were installed at the intersection within an 18-month time period."

Memo to Ms. Fiala:

If safety is your utmost concern, than data based decision making should be your guide. Please abandon the rhetoric: "I'm doing it for your safety, my safety and my kids' safety". It is now sounding like dribble from a feeble mind.

Stop encouraging technology that simply places a private corporation in the midst of government operations for enhanced revenue without any improvement in safety.

So Ms. Fiala, if you wish to increase safety by altering citizen behavior, may I focus your attention to recommend an officer at an intersection with a high incidence of accidents, because NOT all accidents at an intersection are related to red light running. And based on the officers testimony......

In government, safety is the gotcha term to diminish the alternative arguments from folks like me who like to read a peer review. So based on the testimony of a former Florida Highway Patrol Officer, all the arguments for safety and higher cost for officer surveillance were rebuffed.

Now, the government will need to find a new source of revenue to support the beast, that "protects" us. In reality, it protects government's need to grow and add to the fiefdoms.

Recommendation: Camera in the city manager/director/chief office and conference rooms as vendors provide their sales pitch as in crafting a specification written to purchase of a $400K rescue vessel. Interestingly, only one vendor?

Even the new members of Marco Island's council were duped into unanimously voting for that deal. And I had so much hope for the new council, but it vanished in a single day. Imagine $400K vessel for a rescue boat to patrol the waters surrounding Marco Island. I guess I was duped again!

Folks wake up, because we will have incidences, and those on the water will NOT be improved with the equipment specified by Marco Island rescue (typically under the recommendation of the vessel manufacturer). The greatest impact is time to the scene!!!!!!!! NOT how big your boat is or how much equipment it carries.

Good Morning Marco Island! Its time to wake up! Obviously new members of the county commission have!

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