KFOX14 Investigates: Red Light Camera placement and ticket money

Almost 300,000 drivers in El Paso have been caught on camera -- a red light camera.

KFOX14 Investigates first showed you the top spots where drivers are running the red, and now, KFOX14 Investigates takes a look at how police decide where to put a camera and what’s happening to the ticket money.

KFOX14 Investigates obtained video of a crash that happened the day after Christmas in Downtown El Paso at the intersection of Campbell and Missouri.

A red light camera captures a silver car disregarding the red light, and seconds later, it's T-boned by oncoming traffic.

In November, KFOX14 Investigates found video of a driver at Sean Haggerty and Gateway South Blvd blowing past two stopped cars.

“People come down the street hauling butt usually,” James Lawson said of drivers in the area of Sean Haggerty and Gateway South.

In another video from June 2016, a dark car is seen speeding through a busy Montwood and Zaragoza intersection, nearly colliding with another car. In the frame, you can see the car goes on to run another red light.

“They take their chances,” said El Paso Police spokesperson Darrel Petry. “You and I have both seen the tragic results when that doesn't work out in their favor.”

KFOX14 Investigates found new data showing that 2016 saw more than 36,000 red light ticket violations, which is up up from 34,000 in 2015.

Since the program started in 2006, El Paso Police data shows there have been almost 300,000 tickets sent.

As KFOX14 Investigates learned, Fred Wilson and Gateway South had close to 7,000 tickets issued in one year.

“I see the flashes going off all the time,” said

Zach Hugdahl, of Northeast El Paso.

One of the cameras at Resler and Mesa only had 50.

“We haven't gotten the point where we are shutting down any of the cameras, or moved any of them,” said Petry.

As you may have guessed, the number of accidents at an intersection is a factor the police and city use when deciding where to put a camera.

Traffic volume is another factor.

It's a long process with multiple studies conducted at each potential locations.

The company that operates the cameras under contract with the city, Redflex, also has to conduct several studies.

“It benefits all of the motorists of El Paso if it’s an intersection where people are habitually committing red light violations,” said Petry.

However, just because you see a flash, doesn't mean a ticket will end up in your mailbox.

In fact, the city currently has an issuance rate of 64 percent.

First, Redflex combs through the footage and rejects thousands of incidents. Then, a dedicated El Paso Police officer studies each incident before deciding whether to issue a ticket.

Last year, more than 140,000 incidents were recorded. That was whittled down to 36,000 tickets issued.

KFOX14 Investigates obtained a copy of the city's budget, which shows in fiscal year 2015 that the city made $1 million on red light tickets, and $1.2 million in fiscal year 2016.

But almost all of it goes back to operating and maintaining the cameras, and 50 percent of the revenue goes to the State Comptrollers Office.

Some drivers KFOX14 Investigates spoke to said they think the cameras keep them safer.

“Just knowing that it's there, it's there for a reason. It's there for preventative things,” said John in East El Paso.

While the cameras have not been a cash cow--- for the city, for police, it's a safety tool they can't put a price on.

“You have a monitored intersections 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year, 365 days a year,” said Petry.

Banning red light cameras has been a touch-and-go subject in the state legislature, with many expecting lawmakers to take a look at RLC’s again this year.

But for law enforcement, the value of the cameras isn't a photo finish.

“We wouldn't have an idea of how many people blow through those lights had we not had those cameras,” said Petry.

KFOX14 Investigates reached out to the city of El Paso in November to find out what it plans to do in regards to its Redflex camera,and we received this statement in response.

Per Robert Cortinas, director of the office of management and budget, “During the State legislative session two years ago, there was a proposed bill to end the red light camera program. The bill was unsuccessful; however, the issue is being discussed again during the upcoming session.

Any further discussion related to the Red Light Camera program will be discussed during next year’s budget process.”

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