Come spring, drivers who run red lights in Forest Park had better beware because Big Brother may be watching, at least in three locations.
The village council voted unanimously last month to install traffic cameras that will take photos of motorists who disobey traffic signals. The village is still awaiting Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) approval to set up cameras and sensors at three intersections, but Police Chief Jim Ryan said the systems should be operational by March or April
“What we want to do is to reduce traffic accidents,” Ryan said.
The junctions of Harlem and Roosevelt, Desplaines and Roosevelt, and Jackson and Desplaines will be outfitted with pole-mounted cameras and underground magnetic sensors. The sensor detects when a car enters the intersection, thus activating the camera. When a car is photographed running a red light a written notice of the violation will be sent to the registered owner of the vehicle, along with a copy of the images.
The penalty will be a fine of $100. The violation is of a municipal ordinance and is similar to a parking ticket, said Ryan. The ticket is not considered a moving violation and will not appear on a person’s permanent driving record.
The cameras, by law, will not be used to enforce speed limits.
Although the photo will be considered prima facie evidence of a violation, motorists will have the right to a hearing.
Also, before a ticket is mailed, the images capturing the alleged violation will be reviewed three times, twice by RedSpeed Illinois–the Lombard based company that operates the system-and once by the Forest Park Police Department.
“It’s a three part preview process to make sure there are no erroneous citations,” Debra Beerup, RedSpeed director of marketing, said.
Failure to pay the fine can lead to a license suspension.
RedSpeed Illinois also has systems in place in Bellwood, Berwyn, Melrose Park, Rosemont, Bolingbrook and Waukegan. Agreements are in place with 29 other communities to install cameras, said Beerup.
“These programs have been an effective tool for motorists who don’t obey traffic laws,” Mayor Anthony Calderone said.
Funding for the equipment installation, maintenance and processing of tickets is paid out of the revenue the program generates.
Beerup said RedSpeed’s processing fees typically amount to almost $24 per ticket. There is also a monthly fee of $1,499 per camera.
“The cameras are violation funded,” Beerup said. “Forest Park is never going to have to write RedSpeed Illinois a check to operate a camera.”
On April 15, RedSpeed Illinois made a $250 contribution to Citizens for Anthony Calderone, the campaign committee for the mayor. Beerup said she had no knowledge of the campaign contribution and therefore declined comment. Mayors in other contracted communities, including Bolingbrook and Melrose Park, have also received campaign funds from the company.
Asked about the money donated to his re-election efforts, Calderone said he too, was not readily familiar with the transaction.
“I was not even aware of that,” Calderone said. “If you’re telling me that, I’ll have to take your word for it.”
Prior to the council voting to approve the program, Commissioner Michael Curry suggested that residents of Forest Park be forgiven for their first red light offense captured by the cameras. Instituting such a practice could be found unconstitutional, said Village Administrator Mike Sturino, if out-of-town violators aren’t given equal treatment.
Commissioner Mark Hosty also balked at the idea.
“I don’t care if they’re from Forest Park, Chicago, Melrose Park, or Wisconsin,” Hosty said. “If they run a red light they’re endangering the citizens and children of Forest Park. If they’re running a red light they’re endangering our citizens, our kids, and they shouldn’t get one free.”