By David Heitz / NewsBreak Denver
(Denver, Colo.) City Council members say that Denver residents want more red-light and speed enforcement cameras.
During a committee meeting on Feb. 9, the council discussed awarding a $5.6 million contract to American Traffic Solutions. The company would run the cameras. An extra $300,000 would pay for the company currently managing the cameras to stay on until the transition is complete.
The full City Council likely will vote on the contract at its Feb. 21 meeting.
Council President Stacie Gilmore said her office fields requests regularly for traffic cameras. She asked police division chief Joe Montoya for a list showing the camera locations. Of 850 sites where police can use the cameras, 150 regularly are enforced.
By state statute, the speed cameras only can be used on residential streets, streets that border parks and school/work zones.
Gilmore said data should drive where the cameras go. "Some areas of the city get quicker responses than other areas of the city, and that's why we're talking about equity," Gilmore told Montoya.
Montoya said the department responds to requests for the cameras.
Cameras watch four intersections for red-light runners
During a presentation, Montoya showed camera footage of serious accidents. He said the cameras sometimes help the police department solve violent crimes.
Gilmore suggested the police department's traffic division should meet with the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure, or DOTI, monthly to discuss problem intersections. DOTI can re-engineer streets to slow traffic.
"We are out there together trying to fix this problem," Montoya said. "Someone needs to take the lead." Montoya said cameras usually are not installed until other traffic-calming measures have failed.
Red-light cameras monitor four intersections. These include East Sixth Avenue and Kalamath, East 6th Avenue and Lincoln, West 8th Avenue and Speer, East 36th Avenue and Quebec.
Fines for running the lights are $40 or $75, depending upon how far into the intersection the motorist travels. The penalties have not changed since 1989, Montoya said.
Speed cameras slow people down
Sandoval suffered a hand injury in a car accident at 8th and Acoma. Surgeons operated in September.
"It was serious," Sandoval said. "This is a common occurrence there."
She said if the other driver hit the other side of her car, her injuries likely would have been worse.
Montoya said the cameras help calm traffic. He presented data showing the number of speeding tickets written in 2019 compared to 2015.
Montoya said the city issued 85 percent fewer tickets at the intersections at East First Avenue, South University Boulevard and Colorado Boulevard, which have cameras because people know the cameras will catch them if they break the law.
The cameras on East First Avenue and South University Boulevard issue about two tickets per hour for speeding.
Red-light cameras make motorists think twice
Depending on the intersection, data from red-light cameras shows a dip in tickets between 21 percent and 36 percent from 2015 to 2019.
Police use speed cameras at schools five days per week and can deploy four teams at a time.
"They go to schools where we know we have speeding issues. Speed kills," Montoya said. "Even just a small change in speed has a significant impact on crash outcomes."
'Horrifying' accidents in Denver
Sandoval expressed skepticism. "I'm not sure how seeing a flashing red light or getting a ticket in the mail will change behavior."
But Montoya said the cameras work. "People get conditioned to the device," he explained. "I agree the visual deterrent of a police car is very effective, but this is effective as well."
Sandoval said the biggest concern in Northwest Denver is speeding and traffic.
Council member Amanda Sawyer agreed with Gilmore that demand for the cameras is high. "If the program is successful, then potentially we need to consider a budget expansion," she said.
Sawyer said residents commonly call her office and ask, "Can we get a speed camera to slow down traffic?" She said there have been "horrifying accidents" in her district after people ran red lights.