About one in four tickets issued by photo enforcement cameras at major Chandler intersections fail to produce a conviction, mainly because businesses decline to identify employees driving company vehicles, according to Chandler police.
In fiscal year 2008-09, pole-mounted cameras operated by Redflex Traffic Systems at a dozen Chandler intersections flashed about 29,000 times on vehicles for alleged red-light running or speeding, said Detective Dave Ramer, Chandler Police Department spokesman.
In about 8,000 cases, no tickets were issued because the photo failed to capture critical information, Ramer said. Of the remaining 21,000 cases in which tickets were issued, 25 percent failed to produce a conviction, meaning the driver could not be identified or located, the violator failed to respond to the ticket, or the recipient went to court and prevailed, he said.
In a large portion of those 7,000 cases, tickets could not be issued because a company declined to identify the employee driving a company vehicle, Ramer said. Companies are under no obligation to identify the driver, and it's actually in the company's interest not to do so because it could affect vehicle insurance rates, he said.
"If they don't say, 'Yeah, this is so-and-so,' then what are you going to do?" Ramer said.
For each successfully prosecuted ticket, the city receives an average of about $79, he said. In the 2008-09 fiscal year, Chandler earned a $300,000 profit on the program, he said.
However, the city must pay $19 to Redflex for each actionable ticket, regardless of whether the violator ultimately pays up, he said. That means the city paid about $133,000 to Redflex for those 7,000 unsuccessful tickets yet received no revenue in return.
On Thursday, the City Council is slated to decide whether to renew Redflex's operating contract, which is estimated at about $1.8 million but is dependent on the number of tickets issued, Ramer said. The contract contains a provision that could eventually expand photo enforcement in Chandler to 25 intersections, although police aren't recommending it yet.
At a Monday study session, City Councilman Matt Orlando questioned why the city should have to pay the company for unsuccessful tickets.
"We seem to have all the burden of costs," Orlando said.
Discussion of the contract's renewal for an additional three years has prompted some reaction from city residents, most of whom wrote the council to oppose the move.
"This is not the time to be spending our tax dollars on additional government control," according to an e-mail from Richard Imburgia.
Ron Booher urged the council to eliminate the cameras altogether.
"The cameras are nothing more than a revenue source preying on our citizens and enriching corporate entities in the process," he wrote.
Some residents, such as Randall Holland, wrote in favor of the program.
"I support the continued use and expansion of the red light cameras for the City of Chandler. It is reducing accidents and saving lives," Holland wrote.
City Councilman Jack Sellers said he needed more information on how effective the cameras have been at preventing accidents.
"I guess I get concerned when it has the appearance of being a revenue generator rather than a safety measure," Sellers said Monday.
Chandler's photo enforcement has steadily expanded since it was approved in 2001, when red-light cameras were installed at four intersections. Beginning in 2005, many of the cameras were adapted to enforce speed violations, as well.
The city also is involved in negotiations with Redflex over a billing dispute. Officials have said Redflex failed to bill the city properly, but the company has claimed that Chandler owes $200,000 in unpaid fees. A $100,000 settlement has been proposed to resolve the claim, officials have said.