Del Mar to monitor red light cameras program

Del Mar’s red light cameras haven’t been given the red light — yet.

Although the city is under contract with Redflex Traffic Systems until 2016, the Del Mar City Council reviewed the camera program during its Sept. 15 meeting. Council members requested a report on the program earlier this year after noting a decrease in revenue from the devices.

“I’m concerned we’re not getting the safety benefit and we’re losing money,” said Councilman Don Mosier.

The city installed the cameras in 2004 to increase safety at major intersections. All three cameras are located on Camino del Mar, one at Del Mar Heights Road and two at Via de la Valle.

The city currently pays $1,577.51 per camera per month, or $56,790 per year. But that doesn’t include other costs, such as having a sheriff’s detective review the citations and appear in court to defend them. Officials estimated that costs about $65,000 a year.

Under contract, the city’s costs for the program have remained the same, but revenue from the program has fallen.

Del Mar issued 927 red light camera tickets in 2011, 777 in 2012 and 395 last year, according to the staff report. With fewer tickets, revenue from the program decreased, from $93,901 in fiscal year 2012-13 to about $37,000 in the 2013-14 fiscal year that ended June 30, officials said.

Staff cited several reasons for the decline, including driver familiarity with the camera locations, stricter court requirements, reduced and slower citation payments, and the city’s lack of a monitoring program.

The report also indicated a decrease in the number of crashes at camera-controlled intersections, from three crashes in 2001 to one in 2013. There were seven collisions in 2005, the year after cameras were installed. Five collisions occurred in 2006, three collisions each year from 2007-2009, and two in 2010 and 2012.

Assistant City Manager Mark Delin said Sheriff’s Captain Theresa Adams-Hydar and former Captain Robert Hailey believe red light cameras are effective, but some council members said the numbers were too low to determine whether the decrease was due to the cameras.

“I’m disappointed in the lack of data,” Mosier said. “I have a hard time assessing what the safety benefit is, if any.”

“I’m not too sure that they’re statistically safer, but they are costing us...,” added Deputy Mayor Al Corti.

Staff also recommended several program changes to reduce expenses and increase revenue.

Some of the suggestions include changing camera locations, upgrading the equipment or having a community service officer review the tickets rather than a detective.

Renewed in 2009, the city’s seven-year contract with Redflex expires in June 2016.

For now, council members agreed to keep the cameras through the current contract, but monitor the program to determine whether to renew it in the future. The city’s contract includes three optional one-year extensions.

Several cities in the county have removed their red light cameras, including El Cajon, Escondido, Poway and San Diego.

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