Center Point issues 8,000 tickets for drivers running stop signs in Nov.
Many cities are now using traffic cameras to catch speeders and red light runners. But cameras in Center Point have sparked intense outrage among some saying they're about raising money and not safety.
Eight thousand tickets were written in November. In October 12,000 warnings were written. ABC3340 reviewed a number of video clips from the cameras provided by drivers who were issued tickets. The fine is $110.
All the drivers slowed up and hit the brakes at the stop signs. But rolling through without a complete stop meant they got a ticket. Some stopped in front of the white line and were also ticketed. Often, there was no other traffic around the intersection. The cameras are set up at three intersections.
"The controversy is they don't like getting caught breaking the law, or they don't understand stop sign means stop," says Mayor Tom Henderson when asked about the criticism. Since the cameras were restarted, there is now an extra sign reminding drivers to come to a complete stop.
The camera system is run by an out of state company called Redflex. Some of that company's executives were sentenced in a bribery scheme in Chicago. Mayor Henderson says all the players in those crimes were fired. Redflex got the Center Point contract through a bid.
Henderson explains three people review the camera video at Redflex to determine if a ticket is warranted. Then Center Point's public safety officer makes the final decision.
Longtime resident Ruth Crumly is hardly the picture of a dangerous driver. But she got two tickets costing her $220, one on the way to church. "I did not endanger anyone; I don't feel I did anything wrong," explains Crumly.
She's one of several outspoken critics. "It's a money scam. It's not for safety. It's for money. If it were for safety they'd do something about the gunshots and crime in city," says Sharon Wilbourn who has set up a facebook page encouraging citizens to speak out.
For former council member Raymond Olan its not the cameras themselves, but clarity on the process that he objects to. "There's no clear cut process for citizens to get impartial judgement," remarks Olan. He says those who determine who gets ticketed have a financial stake indirectly.
Several other cities: Tuscaloosa, Montgomery and Selma have traffic cameras but without the controversy. "They're all over. I don't hear complaints that people will quit going to Tuscaloosa for ball games," says Mayor Henderson.
The fine money breaks down like this:
Center Point 70%
Redflex 20 %
Alabama Dept. of Law Enforcement 10%
For the 8,000 tickets sent out in November: $880,000 is due from drivers. The city's share for one month would be $616,000. So far $9,000 has come in.
The city also plans three red light cameras at busy intersections. "We're not out to get anybody; we just want them to drive safely," says the mayor.
The ticket does not go on your driving record since it is not issued by law enforcement. The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office which provides law enforcement for the city does not have not have anything to do with the traffic cameras.
If you don't pay the fine, it goes to a collection agency. An appeal costs $25 which you get back if you win. The mayor says the hearing officer is not connected to the city.