Last week, Iowa Public Interest Research Group (Iowa PIRG) released a report regarding the growing use of traffic cameras in Iowa. The report criticizes cities for giving up too much power to the out-of-state companies that administer them and for essentially privatizing a large part of traffic law enforcement.
Automated traffic enforcement programs have grown in popularity across the country—with active systems in 700 communities and about half of the states. In Iowa they are utilized in larter cities such as: Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, Clive, Davenport, Muscatine, and Council Bluffs with others under consideration.
In Des Moines alone, cameras issued 1,776 violations in the month of September. So far, 1,129 citations have been paid to the city for a total of $73,778. Of that revenue, Des Moines pays Gatso USA flat fees of $27 for each red light ticket and $25 for each speeding ticket (or a total of $20,506). This left the city of Des Moines with a net of $53,282 for the city’s general fund.
Some of Iowa PIRG’s recommendations include:
- Putting public safety first in decisions regarding traffic enforcement
- Ensuring that contracts are free from political conflicts of interest
- Avoiding direct or indirect incentives for vendors that are based on the number of tickets or fines
- Retaining public control over traffic policy and engineering decisions, including cancellation of contracts if the public is dissatisfied
- Ensuring an open process with opportunities for public participation and a centralized database with information for the public
The full report can be found on Iowa PIRG’s website at www.iowapirg.org.