MUSCATINE, Iowa -The Muscatine City Council unanimously approved the first reading of an ordinance Thursday that would allow cameras at key intersections to cite speeders and those who run red lights.
The vote was 6-0, with Councilman Bob Bynum absent.
Rich Kosina, chief technology officer with the company that invented the automated traffic control system 52 years ago, Massachusetts-based Gatso USA, said red-light violations at some of the six intersections surveyed - particularly at Houser Street and Cedar Street - were "quite high."
The time that the light remains yellow at that intersection - three seconds - may need to be increased, he said.
Kosina said the red-light surveys were completed in early June. A separate speed study conducted by the Muscatine Police Department occurred in July.
The red-light surveys were taken for three hours in the morning, two hours in mid-day, and three hours in the evening - peak hours for traffic.
The speed survey was cut off after 400 cars passed through each intersection.
Police Chief Gary Coderoni said the police chiefs he's talked to in communities that have tried an automated system said that relatively high levels of citations immediately after the cameras are installed fell off rather dramatically in the months following.
"They might become irrelevant," he said of the cameras.
To which Kosina responded, smiling: "We recommend you leave the pole up as a deterrent."
"We talk safety, but people will argue that it's only to generate revenue," said Councilman Osama Shihadeh. "Where will (the money) go?"
"It will go in the general fund, and (the City Council) will decide what to do with it," Coderoni answered.
Coderoni said that since the infractions are civil, rather than criminal, they won't become part of the vehicle owner's driving record and won't increase that person's car insurance rates.
The cameras, which could be installed as soon as this fall, have features helpful for both police and the general public, Kosina said, including:
- During an Amber Alert, a child abduction alert bulletin, police can quickly adjust the software that controls the cameras so that they will record vehicles' license plates - even ones that partially match the suspected vehicle - helping police locate the vehicle. That information is then provided to police in as little as 18 seconds.
- The cameras provide video streaming, which can help police investigating accidents, for example.
- Scenes captured by the cameras can be downloaded to a person's personal computer.
"You could watch yourself roll through that red light," Coderoni said.
Some council members, including Jerry Lange, questioned Coderoni and Assistant Police Chief Phil Sargent about wording in the ordinance that allows speeders to get away with 10 miles per hour or less over the posted limit.
"If the police were to stop everyone going 8,9 or 10 (mph) over the limit, that's all we'd do," Coderoni said.
He also noted that some drivers' speedometers aren't as accurate as those in squad cars, "so there's a little slack built in, or it wouldn't be fair."
Lange asked about the possibility of amending the proposed ordinance to lower the threshold to 7 or 8 miles over the speed limit, but no further action on an amendment was taken at this first reading. Two more readings are required before the ordinance is enacted.