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10/3/2013 8:09:00 AM
End of photo radar in Prescott Valley: Vans are gone, cameras are bagged
Prescott Valley’s photo radar cameras have been covered up as of Wednesday morning.
Photo courtesy Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier
Prescott Valley’s photo radar cameras have been covered up as of Wednesday morning.
Photo courtesy Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier

Ken Hedler
Special to the Tribune


Motorists here now may drive through town without fear of photo-enforcement cameras catching them speeding or running red lights.

The town's contract with Scottsdale-based Redflex Traffic Systems that dates to October 2006 expired today because the Town Council previously decided against extending the contract. Redflex de-activated the stationary cameras at midnight Tuesday and covered them with bags Wednesday.

Council members and past police chiefs dating to Dan Schatz have defended photo enforcement amid public complaints by claiming photo enforcement encouraged safer driving.

However, council members changed their minds after a traffic safety consultant completed an audit in March that disclosed police officers overlooked speeding violations involving family members who drove the officers' private vehicles. Around the same time, the Chicago Tribune published an exposé of corruption involving Redflex and the Chicago city government.

Mayor Harvey Skoog, who has been a photo enforcement proponent from the start, said, "The community has been so uncomfortable with it. I am supporting pulling it out."

Two motorists approached near the fixed-cameras at the intersection of Highway 69 and Prescott East Highway expressed mixed feelings Wednesdays about the cameras going away.

"I don't like them," said Robert Kennedy, a maintenance director who lives in Cordes Lakes. "I think if you are going to get a ticket, somebody needs to be there (to issue it)."

However, Dylan Beale, a supermarket clerk who lives in Prescott, commented, "Honestly, cameras going away is kind of stupid because you actually need them. There are a lot of people that are driving smarter (because of them)."

Interim Police Chief James Edelstein Edelstein discussed plans at a June 20 council meeting to deploy more officers to write tickets for speeding and red-light violations when photo enforcement goes away. Redflex used two mobile vans and placed cameras at fixed locations for speeding and red lights at Highway 69/ Prescott East Highway and Glassford Hill Road at Long Look Drive, and cameras for speeding only at Highway 69 east of Mendecino Drive.

"I intend to add at least one person to traffic," Edelstein said this past Thursday, bringing the total to three.

Edelstein said he is working with faculty and math students at Northern Arizona University to conduct a study of motorists' behavior in a six-month period that starts immediately.

"The council asked for a report after a year," he said.

Town Manager Larry Tarkowski said Wednesday, "We hope that we do not see an increase in red-light running or speeding at those locations." Speeding violations occurred when the cameras captured vehicles at 11 mph or faster than the posted speed limits.

The town launched photo enforcement in response to an increase in traffic collisions from 2004 to 2006, according to a report dated Oct. 13, 2011, that Edelstein gave to the council March 21. Prescott Valley police investigated more than 10 fatal crashes, hundreds of serious injury accidents and more than 1,000 accidents that did not involve injuries during that two-year period.

From October 2006 through September 2011, the cameras caught 198,598 violations and police issued 102,874 photo-enforcement tickets, the report stated. Collisions also dropped from 882 in 2007 to 613 in 2010, or 30 percent.

The police also compiled statistics on photo-enforcement violations that indicated violations dropped from the 2011-12 to 2012-13 fiscal years, which conclude on June 30. Van citations dropped from 5,217 to 3,252 (37.7 percent) in 2012-13, fixed-speed citations fell from 22,457 to 21,332 (5 percent) and red-light citations declined from 3,210 to 3,092 (3.7 percent).

Separate reports from the police logged an increase in overall citations from 1,914 in 2011-12 to 2,506 in 2012-13 - a 30.9 percent hike - and in overall traffic accidents from 543 in 2011-12 to 568 in 2012-13, or 4.6 percent.

The citations, which start at $180, have been revenue-neutral for the town, police and civilian officials have maintained from the start.

The town collected $235,639 in 2012-13 after paying Redflex $587,126, Management Services Director Bill Kauppi said. Kauppi explained the town receives $10.56 out of a starting ticket of $180, with Redflex collecting $70 and $27 going to the court processing fee.

Photo enforcement has accounted for more than 70 percent of the caseload of the Magistrate Court, Presiding Judge Keith Carson said.

With photo enforcement going away, the court will not fill one clerical position, the town's human resources director, Karen Smith, said. The court has four clerks, and a supervisory position that will be filled.

The loss of photo enforcement could mean a drop in business for traffic schools.

Photo-enforcement tickets have accounted for 20 to 25 of the business for Yavapai Traffic Safety School in Prescott, owner Melissa Caracker said.

However, she said, "I have seen an increase in handwritten tickets in Prescott Valley within the last month, probably 5 percent."

Unlike Caracker, Anton Teschner, owner of Arizona Monsoon Defensive Driving School in Prescott Valley, is not worried about losing business even though photo-enforcement tickets account for a majority of his students.

"If police do what they say they are going to do and make the contacts they are supposed to make, I don't expect a drop (in business)," Teschner said. "If they don't do their jobs, I don't have business. Roads might be more unsafe. Talk to me in a month."


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Reader Comments

Posted: Tuesday, October 15, 2013
Article comment by: @ go ahead

Not true - I got one at a stop sign at which I actually stopped! Apparently not long enough. I tried arguing my case, and even thought about taking it to court, but honestly who is going to win there? A sworn officer of the law's word against mine? I decided my time was better spent at work.

I've mixed feelings about cameras - I do believe they are misused, but a camera doesn't lie (ahem "interpret") things to facilitate traffic tickets.


Posted: Monday, October 14, 2013
Article comment by: Joey Evans

I’m definitely glad they are gone. As far as I’m concerned, they were just another way of the town ripping off people. They accomplished more in causing congestion and bumper bangers when idiots would slam on the breaks when they realized the camera was there. They may have been a boom to Redflex’s bottom line, but did nothing for safety. The fixed cameras may be gone, but I haven’t heard if the SUV’s are also going. Those are the ones that cause the most risk with drivers slamming on the brakes, even when they’re already doing the speed limit. Now if only we could get rid of the idiots on the town council who like to give away our tax dollars to multi-million dollar corporations to open stores.

Posted: Saturday, October 12, 2013
Article comment by: go ahead give it a try

"No live officer would write such a ticket"

Probably not true. They call that a rolling stop.



Posted: Saturday, October 12, 2013
Article comment by: Max Treinen

The photo-radar cameras are always a cash cow for Redflex. Cameras never spent a dime in this community. Nor did they participate in community affairs, they've never stopped one reckless driver, and never have they stopped a drunk driver, not one. Good riddance. Let the city hire more policemen who can do all of the above.
The last paragraph in the article is interesting in that it implies that the PVPD does indeed have a quota for written tickets. Hmmm.


Posted: Thursday, October 10, 2013
Article comment by: Gary Dean

To: D. J. Fone. You say "no live officer would write such a ticket" for not coming to a complete stop when turning red? I bet there are a lot of officers out there just watching for you then. I see complete disregard for traffic laws every day when driving, and most all of them go unseen by police officers. I get the finger or stared at, even told I am in the wrong for obeying the laws. It's about time there are more patrol officers on the street. By the way, I do not drive 70 on hwy 69, then slam on the brakes when I approach the cameras, then take off again when I am past them.

Posted: Sunday, October 6, 2013
Article comment by: D. J. Fone

If "gotcha" cameras actually prevented red-light runners, they'd be valued and kept. But so many cities examined the data and saw the majority of their violations were for right turns on red light that didn't have a complete and total stop, even when no crossing traffic was in sight. No live officer would write such a ticket, but thousands came from the cameras, costing several hundred dollars each in various cities. And, honestly: If someone is determined to risk their own and others' lives by running a red light, do you really believe the fear of a ticket is going to stop them? Good riddance to these one-armed bandits that are bald cash grabs and little more.

Posted: Friday, October 4, 2013
Article comment by: Tim Silete

I paid for the bag! besides we all know it`s a legal Criminal racket anyways fighting over profit more than likely.....



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