The Riverside Police Department was given the green light at the Riverside village board’s Feb. 12 meeting to investigate installing traffic cameras at busy intersections in the village to better detect traffic violations.
At the meeting, Police Chief Eugene Karczewski said he had already begun looking into companies that work with police departments in installing traffic cameras. These high-definition cameras would snap pictures of cars running red lights, allowing police to ticket them for the violation.
Similar systems are already in place in Chicago and in many suburbs. Karczewski noted that North Riverside will soon be installing them at some intersections.
Karczewski explained that the plan would be to work with a private company in installing the system, and that the company would pay for the equipment costs in return for some percentage of the fines resulting from the traffic violations the cameras detect. The department does not have the money to install and monitor the system on its own, he said.
“We could not afford the equipment or the manpower to observe the cameras,” he said. “But there’s no investment if you contract with one of these companies.”
Karczewski said he was currently in talks with Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Redflex Traffic Systems on potentially bringing their traffic systems to Riverside. According to their Web site, Redflex is the largest provider of red light enforcement systems in the country.
In working with a company like Redflex, Karczewski said, the only work left for Riverside police officers would be to sort through the pictures and determine which vehicles, such as emergency response vehicles or funeral processions, would be excused from a fine.
However, the village would not be able to determine where the cameras would be placed. Karczewski said representatives from Redflex would survey intersections in the village to determine which, if any, have heavy enough traffic to make their camera systems profitable. He predicted that the intersection of First Avenue and Ridgewood Road might qualify.
“It would need to be a high-volume intersection,” he said. “They want to make sure they’d be able to make money on it.”
Karczewski said that stoplight violations make up about 15 to 20 percent of citations issued by the department.
North Riverside Police Chief Anthony Garvey confirmed that North Riverside has already entered into an agreement with RedFlex to do traffic studies at 16 different sites in that village.
“They’re in the process of doing the studies at those intersections,” Garvey said.
Before RedFlex could actually install any cameras, the company would need a permit from the Illinois Department of Transportation. As a result, Garvey said, any cameras are several months away from being a reality in the village.
In a separate interview, Riverside Assistant Chief Thomas Weitzel said that in addition to catching more violations, the cameras would also help the department by providing more statistical date on the village’s busier intersections.
“We would really get a tremendous amount of data,” he said. “We could look at traffic counts, and compare how many violations we had before and after the cameras were installed.”
At the Feb. 12 meeting, trustees authorized Karczewski to go further into talks with Redflex. According to Weitzel, the next steps would be to bring representatives into the village to survey intersections and make a more formal presentation to the Village Board. He estimated that, if the department decides to contract with Redflex, the cameras wouldn’t be installed for at least another six months.
As for other types of traffic enforcement, Weitzel did say the department was also looking into camera systems at railroad crossings, but that the technology for those systems had not advanced very far.
“The red light enforcement is just much more advanced,” he said. “We’re still going to look at grade crossing enforcement, and maybe one day we’ll get into that as well.”
Bob Uphues contributed to this report.