County shuts down speed cameras, saying they are ineffective

2014-01-08T00:00:00Z 2014-01-20T10:06:20Z County shuts down speed cameras, saying they are ineffectiveBy Joe Ferguson Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Priscilla Cornelio  rose from her chair after the Board of Supervisor’s meeting and exchanged pleasantries to people standing nearby.

Then the director of the Pima County Department of Transportation got down to business — telling the two representatives from American Traffic Solutions to “turn them off.”

Those three words essentially ended the county’s five-year relationship with the Tempe-based contractor.

In a 4-0 vote, supervisors rejected a proposal to extend the contract with ATS on Tuesday, saying the fixed locations became less effective over time. Supervisor Ally Miller was absent.

Supervisor Ramón Valadez said the cameras initially were very effective at curbing dangerous behavior on county roads.

“One of the citations was for 117 mph. That is not the kind of behavior we want on our streets,” Valadez said.

He left the door open to using speed cameras down the road, asking county workers to return with a comprehensive speed enforcement plan for all of Pima County. This plan could, he concedes, include mobile speed cameras provided by American Traffic Solutions.

In their proposal to the board, ATS suggested taking down 7 of the 11 cameras and putting up new mobile units near public schools.

Putting up new speed cameras will be a hard sell for Supervisor Ray Carroll, who has voted against the ATS contract since its first proposal.

Carroll said the cameras were a poor substitute for uniformed officers, noting in his 18 years in office the Pima County Sheriff’s Department has always been responsive to addressing traffic problems.

“They’ve been effective in stopping or slowing down the problem,” Carroll said.

A spokesman for American Traffic Solutions, Charles Territo, said the cameras have a proven track record of making street safer by changing driver behavior.

He cited a study that 90 percent of drivers caught by his company’s speed cameras are never caught again.

Territo said the cameras have led to declines in accidents in areas where they have been deployed.

However, county staff said the mere presence of the controversial cameras is only one possible reason for a decline in vehicular accidents.

The county Department of Transportation and Sheriff’s Department found “no conclusive evidence” the 11 cameras were able to consistently reduce speeds or crashes.

Data from the county suggest the crash rate at the 11 camera locations decreased by only 13 percent during a three-year period while the accident rate decreased by 19 percent on all county roads during the same period.

The number of citations in Pima County has declined to 15,498 from 39,997 in 2009, in the first nine months of 2013.

While the cameras were turned off before noon on Tuesday, ATS told Cornelio that no citations would be issued for any photographs taken on Tuesday.

Contact reporter Joe Ferguson at jferguson@azstarnet.com or 573-4346. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFerguson.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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