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June 30, 2004
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Cities Turn To Cameras For Red-light Enforcement

By Angie Herrington, The Chattanooga Times Free Press (Chattanooga, Tenn.)

Dalton, Georgia - Josh Martin, sales manager of Barn Nursery, said he''s looking forward to the traffic cameras the city may install at the intersection of Walnut Avenue and Dug Gap Road.

"I think it''s a good idea," he said. "There''s been a lot of wrecks at this intersection."

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Dalton is the latest of several Georgia cities that have turned to traffic-light camera systems to catch traffic violators at busy intersections.

The city signed a contract earlier this month with Transol USA Inc. to operate a traffic camera program for five years.

Jay Spector, southern area director for Transol, said plans are for several intersections to be outfitted with cameras over time. The first will be installed in 90 days at either Walnut Avenue and Dug Gap Road or Walnut Avenue and Glenwood Avenue.

"The issue is safety," he said. "The most serious accidents are those where people run red lights."

But some residents said they think the city is installing the cameras to rake in more money from traffic tickets.

"I think it all comes down to another way for the city to make revenue," said Kasey Carpenter, owner of the West Walnut Cafe.

Mayor Ray Elrod said the cameras, which cost $77,040 a year per intersection, will not be a money-making venture for the city. He said the city probably will break even.

"It''s not a money issue," he said. "We need to do all we can to cut back on accidents."

The cameras take a picture of a vehicle and the vehicle''s license plate. Transol will send photos of possible violations to the police department for review and issuance of fines, and citations and photos will be mailed to offenders.

Debbie Trainor with LaserCraft, a traffic camera system company in Norcross, Ga., said more than 100 cities in 19 states have red-light camera enforcement.

She said two years ago Decatur became the first city in Georgia to install cameras, and the list of areas using the monitoring systems has been growing ever since.

"Business is very good," she said.

Ms. Trainor said Atlanta, Alpharetta, Albany and Columbus also are considering camera programs.

State Rep. Mike Snow, D-Chickamauga, said traffic cameras are a necessary tool for law enforcement. He said he sponsored a bill that passed three years ago that put in place a maximum fine of $70 and other regulations concerning the cameras.

"We all saw a need for it (the cameras), because people drive faster and run red lights," Rep. Snow said. "But at the same time ... I think it''s up to us to sort of regulate these activities, even though we support them."

Brian Marshall, spokesman for the Marietta Police Department, said it will take six months to a year to measure the effectiveness of the cameras the city installed this month in his city.

It would take four officers spending 24 hours a day at the intersection to equal the job the cameras are providing, he said.

"Now that we have the cameras, we can do something better and not be wasting it writing citations," Mr. Marshall said.


Cities and counties in Georgia with traffic-light camera plans: Dalton
Decatur
Savannah
Marietta
Rome
Athens-Clarke County
Riverdale
Duluth
Gwinnett County

Source: LaserCraft




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