Contract renewal for Redflex traffic cameras in Las Cruces unlikely
Updated: Monday, February 10 2014, 09:14 PM MST
By: Bill Melugin LAS CRUCES, N.M. – The future looks dim for red -light cameras in the City of Crosses after a Las Cruces City Council work session Monday.
The council discussed whether they want to terminate their contract with Redflex Traffic Systems, the company in charge of the red light cameras. The contract is set to end of February 27th and began in March 2009.
"I would definitely say our council is not currently strongly supporting the red light cameras,” said Mayor Pro Tem Gregory Smith. “I would say the sentiments expressed by the council would certainly lead the city manager to understand there's not a lot of support for this, and we’ll just have to look at other ways to keep people safe at our intersections."
Redflex operates cameras in El Paso, and Las Cruces, along with several other states in the country.
The Australian company has been in damage control mode lately after a Chicago Tribune article that quoted a fired Redflex executive as saying the company had given out bribes to officials in dozens of municipalities in up to 13 states, including Texas and New Mexico, to secure contracts for the cameras.
The Las Cruces City Council determined there were no bribes offered to them, and KFOX14 is still awaiting the results of an open records request to the El Paso City Council, though city manager Joyce Wilson said they are monitoring the situation and have not been contacted by any investigators.
The cameras began operation in Las Cruces in 2009. Over five years, they generated $5,471,000 in revenue, but the city only got to keep $1,418,000 of it after Redflex and the state took their cuts, along with other fees.
Some at Monday’s meeting called the constitutionality of the cameras into question, specifically when it comes to due process.
"In the state of New Mexico, the rule is you must be cited by a uniformed officer in person, that's one of the big items, how can someone in Arizona justify looking at the video and saying you're in violation?” said Ron Camunez. “They pass it on to an officer here who is sitting behind a desk making that judgment call."
Camunez told KFOX14 he believes the cameras are now more about making money than keeping people safe.
"I think that it shows that it does not prevent more or less accidents, it's just a source of revenue,” Camunez said.
A New Mexico State University study into how effective the cameras are at preventing accidents was inconclusive, and councilmembers said there is no real evidence that the cameras do so.
"The intention was to impact people running red lights and we just don't see that it's conclusively doing that,” Smith said. “If this isn't giving us the results, then were going to need to be looking at what else we can do, possibly the old-fashioned method of putting the police officers at those intersections and making sure they are stopping people and issuing citations, certainly there would be less concern about due process and that sort of thing with that approach."
Unless there is a special meeting, the Las Cruces city manager will decide the fate of the cameras by the end of the month.