Jan 25 - 31, 2007 
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Feature

The Money Questions

By Marisa Demarco

$100 tickets add up. How much has been paid in fines for camera-caught traffic violations?

Since the program began in May 2005 through the end of last year, drivers have paid out $5.2 million.

How many tickets is that?

There have been about 50,000 tickets issued for red-light running and speeding.

Where does the money go?

To a city general fund. Last year, $250,000 was withdrawn to fight meth. The cameras cost the city money, too. Those expenses are paid by tickets.

What expenses?

APD has to pay the officer that reviews each photo before the ticket is issued. There are also the officers operating the speed vans. The city pays hearing officers to review disputed tickets.

It also costs between $15,000 and $30,000 to install one of these puppies, maybe more if the intersection is an old one. That money goes to Redflex, a company that operates out of Scottsdale, Ariz.

What else do we give the camera company?

Albuquerque is leasing the cameras. Redflex gets $2,350 a month for each camera that catches only red-light runners. If the camera is the kind that catches speeders too, we pay $4,350 a month. Speed vans and the equipment inside go for $5,500 a month.

How much has Albuquerque paid Redflex total since the program began?

$1.285 million.

How much does Redflex make from each citation?

The biggest boon to Redflex might be the tickets themselves. The Arizona company snags $18 per red-light running violation. Since speeding citations cost a range of prices, Redflex gets 18 percent up to $45 per ticket.

Will the cameras ever cost the city money that ticket fees aren't paying?

That's hard to know. The dream scenario is for this program to always be funded by people paying tickets. But the program's benefit to the community is also its folly.

See, for the first few months after a camera is installed, the number of tickets issued rises, peaks and levels off. As drivers get smarter about the cameras, fewer tickets are issued. Great, right? Fewer accidents, lives are saved, and if the trend continues, everyone's insurance rates could decrease in Albuquerque, too. Still, that's less money for the program. The time could come when citation fees aren't able to cover the program's cost. So far, there's been at least a 72 percent decrease of violations at each intersection.

*Source: John Walsh, spokesperson for the Albuquerque Police Department

 
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