Riverside’s village board later this year may consider the placement of red-light cameras at certain intersections within the village, after trustees agreed on March 15 to have the police chief reach out to a red-light camera vendor to survey possible locations.
Trustee Michael Sedivy suggested examining whether red-light cameras might be justified in Riverside, according to Village President Ben Sells, who polled trustees about directing Police Chief Thomas Weitzel to do more research at the end of the March 15 village board meeting.
Sedivy told the Landmark that red-light cameras have proved useful in the past in helping solve crimes and the revenue derived from such cameras might be able to help fund a separate surveillance camera system at key village entry/exit points.
Police Chief Thomas Weitzel has also been tasked with gathering more information on a surveillance camera system for the village. In a village with limited options for creating revenue streams, said Sedivy, red-light cameras could be valuable resource.
“We clearly have neighboring villages that benefit pretty dramatically from their red-light cameras, which contribute meaningful revenue,” Sedivy said in an email. “In a village that is markedly over-reliant on property tax revenues, I feel it is this board’s responsibility to pursue all funding opportunities, especially when a public safety initiative could possibly be funded.”
While Riverside has looked at the possibility of red-light cameras in the past, the village has not come close to moving ahead with the devices.
In 2007, the village enlisted the firm Redflex to survey intersections to see if there was a location appropriate for cameras. The only intersection identified at that time was Harlem Avenue and East Quincy Street.
However, because state law prohibits red-light cameras at intersections where traffic lights are synchronized with railroad grade crossing signals, the matter never advanced.
Weitzel in 2015, approached Chicago-based SafeSpeed LLC, which has become the biggest red-light camera player in suburban Chicago, to conduct a survey of intersections.
Information regarding the results of that survey was not immediately available to the Landmark.
“My position is that I’d need to see a compelling case that it’s a public safety issue and not just a revenue generator,” Sells said.
Weitzel said that based on the board’s March 15 direction, he will again approach SafeSpeed about doing another intersection survey to get the latest traffic counts and crash data.
According to Weitzel, the intersection of First and Forest Avenue/Ridgewood Road would appear to be the likeliest candidate for a red-light camera. In addition to the fact that First Avenue is a busy state highway and truck route, the intersection draws large numbers of school children, both high school and middle school every morning and afternoon during the school year.
The intersection has been the scene of several serious crashes, including fatal ones, over the years.
“My position is to bring back information to the board to see if there are any intersections that warrant further discussion of red-light cameras,” Weitzel said. “I think they need to have the data behind them to justify considering them.”
Red-light camera companies such as SafeSpeed say the cameras are meant to reduce red-light running and serious crashes, a claim that has been difficult to prove.
What is irrefutable, however, is the ability of red-light cameras to generate enormous revenues for both municipalities and companies like SafeSpeed due to the number of citations issued for right-turn violations that have been shown repeatedly to be neither significantly dangerous nor a large factor in crashes.
In January 2017, the Landmark reported that since Jan. 1, 2014, the village of North Riverside and city of Berwyn issued more than $20 million in citations for violations caught by the four red-light cameras at the intersection of Harlem Avenue and Cermak Road resulted. About 90 percent of those violations were for right turns on red.
“Certainly the public in general is anti-red light enforcement,” said Weitzel. “But if you can justify a location [with data] at least the [village] board could consider it without just anecdotal information.”