Local Authorities Hope Red Light Cameras Get Green Light

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Authorities tout them as another way to keep their eyes on red light runners, but lawmakers are eyeing extra provisions for so-called red-light cameras.

Local lawmen are fine with the additions, and not-so-fine with other possibilities.

As Bryan and College Station look into the use of red light cameras to deter and cite red light runners, they await word from Austin and the soon-to-end legislative session. One likely change already with partial approval would be signage 100 feet before intersections to warn drivers of the camera's presence.

"The whole point of that is not to set up an ambush or anything," said College Station Assistant Police Chief Larry Johnson, "but it's to let people know there is enforcement."

However, the bill many have their eyes on is one which would ban the use of the cameras all together by September 2009 unless the legislature signs off. It would have to be proven that the cameras were not used to generate revenue for the police departments. Local authorities say they've seen instances of any red light revenue being prededicated by the cities.

"What that did was it at least alleviated that a police department was trying to do this to raise revenue to hire more cops or to get nicer cars," said Bryan Assistant Police Chief Freddie Komar.

"Almost every system that I've seen in place, all of the revenue generated, almost all of it, has been used for public safety functions, so I don't see the real issue with that," said Johnson.

However, the dual argument remains fresh in the minds of those who oppose the red light camera systems: that all it is is a big brother eye in the sky bent on making money for the authorities.

"I really don't think there's anything I can say that would convince somebody that believes that this is being done strictly to raise revenue," said Komar. "I just don't think there's anything I can say that would change their mind.

"What I would tell you," he continued, "is that if you've ever been an officer that's had to go up and tell a young mother with a couple of little kids hanging on to their leg that her husband is dead, you kind of lose patience, and you're not very sympathetic toward red light violators."

Lubbock Representative Carl Isett has been at the forefront of the movement to ban red light cameras. He, like many with questions about the device, has said cities simply use the devices to gain revenue.