Six years after Killeen installed red-light cameras in five intersections, officials credit them with improved mobility and safety in those areas.
“When we first implemented them, we had numerous traffic violations, accidents, people blocking the intersections, and as a result of implementing those, that has not been the case anymore,” said Mayor Scott Cosper, who was on the Killeen City Council in 2008 when the red-light cameras were approved.
“Certainly, there are still some accidents, but we don’t have the roads being blocked by cross-traffic whenever the light changes. It has improved mobility and safety.”
The red-light cameras are easily visible, spotted by the white boxes that house them, positioned high in the air on poles by the roadside. There are seven cameras at five intersections in the city: Fort Hood Street and Central Texas Expressway; Trimmier Road and Central Texas Expressway; South W.S. Young Drive and Central Texas Expressway; Stan Schlueter Loop and Central Texas Expressway; and Trimmier Road and Lowe’s Boulevard.
Linda Pemberton, a paralegal in the city attorney’s office, said records for the number of accidents in 2008 and 2009 are no longer available. However, the number of accidents in the intersections where the cameras are present fluctuated annually between 2010 and 2013.
In 2010, there were 53 crashes in the five intersections monitored by the cameras, according to records obtained by the Herald. That number nearly doubled in 2011, with 102 accidents reported. In 2012, crashes dropped to 84, only to rise again in 2013 to 92 reported crashes.
Pemberton said the numbers are skewed because when officers respond to crashes, they list the nearest intersection on each crash report.
“For example, if an accident occurs on Central Texas Expressway in front of the mall, and the nearest intersection is W.S. Young Drive and Central Texas Expressway, that accident will be included along with any accident that actually occurred in the intersection of W.S. Young Drive and Central Texas Expressway,” she said.
During a 2013 community forum, Killeen Police Chief Dennis Baldwin said the department hadn’t seen a need to expand the red-light camera program.
When asked if the police department should look at relocating the cameras once crash numbers decrease, he said it’s a possibility.
The ultimate decision falls on the council, which selected the intersections before the cameras were installed by Redflex in summer 2008.
Since the cameras became active in 2008, the number of citations has dropped annually, with the exception of a spike in 2012.
“Since the red-light enforcement program was implemented, we continue to see significant reductions of red-light violations by motorists at the five intersections where the seven cameras are located,” Baldwin said last week. “From 2008 to 2013, we’ve seen a 47 percent reduction in red-light violations.”
City Manager Glenn Morrison declined to comment on the camera system, deferring to Baldwin.
In the first year the red-light cameras were in place, 37,412 citations were issued. In 2009, the number dropped to 30,342 and fell again in 2010 to 24,235. In 2011, 19,947 citations were issued.
In 2012, 28,431 citations were issued — nearly 9,500 more than the previous year; however, that number fell to 19,579 in 2013.
“It’s about the psychology of awareness,” KPD Commander Lee Caufield said in a previous report. “They think about red-light cameras across the board.”
Red-light violators are issued citations, rather than tickets, and those citations don’t show up on the violators’ driving records.
However, since the camera can’t establish exactly who is driving the vehicle, its owner receives the citation — an aspect of red-light camera programs that has drawn fire from critics nationwide.
Killeen resident Ludgerio Vasquez said he learned the hard way that the owner is responsible for the citation. A friend driving his car ran a light, but the citation was mailed to him.
“It’s not fair,” he said.
For every $75 citation issued, the city splits the revenue with Redflex and the state.
For the first 90 citations issued, Killeen gets $48 per citation; $38 per citation for the next 91 to 180 citations and $28 per citation for 181 citations or more. The remainder of the $75 citation goes to Redflex, the company that operates and maintains the cameras.
“At the end of the fiscal year, the funds received ... are totaled,” Pemberton said. “The amount of red-light camera program expenses are subtracted from that total and the balance is split equally between the city of Killeen and the state of Texas.”
Cosper said the red-light program “certainly isn’t about revenue, it’s about improving mobility and safety.”
However, the city has taken in nearly $300,000 annually since the cameras were installed.
During the 2011 fiscal year, Killeen took in $297,337 from the citations, after paying Redflex and the state. In FY 2012, the city netted $298,235. Redflex received $741,228 in revenue from the citations in FY 2011, and $672,465 in 2012.
Pemberton said revenue totals weren’t accessible for prior years.
Revenue generated from the citations goes into the city’s red-light enforcement fund. Its use is restricted to traffic safety programs, including pedestrian safety and public safety programs, intersection improvements and traffic enforcement, Pemberton said.
Earlier this year, the council approved the use of red-light enforcement funds to purchase 20 Chevrolet Tahoes for the police department.
Contact Natalie Stewart at email@example.com or 254-501-7555