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Monday, October 2, 2023

Staff Editorial

City scrambling with red light camera aftermath

Houstonians spoke loud and clear at the polls Nov. 2 when a majority voted down the proposition that would have kept the city’s red light cameras in operation.

On Monday, the city took the first major step in making the cameras a thing of the past.

City officials told media outlets that the 70 cameras at 50 intersections were turned off at 10 a.m., shortly after election results were certified by the City Council. Mayor Annise Parker told the Houston Chronicle that tickets issued to drivers before 10 a.m. were still valid and would have to be paid.

City officials have not set a timetable for when the cameras would be removed.

No more cameras means the Houston Police Department’s budget will now be about $10 million lighter each year. Parker and other city officials have already lamented how this loss of revenue would hinder officers’ ability to ensure more safety at perilous intersections.

One can argue that this financial hit alone puts more Houstonians in harm’s way. But given that more than $44 million in fines have been collected since 2006 as a result of these cameras and city officials said there are $25 million more in uncollected fines, one could also reason that the cameras didn’t do enough to deter people from running red lights.

The red light cameras provided a significant financial boon for the city. But their primary purpose was to dissuade drivers from putting the lives of others in jeopardy by running red lights.

With revenue from red light cameras no longer available, Police Chief Charles A. McClelland Jr. and other police department officials will have to become more innovative with the methods they use to address the problem of red-light runners.

The city was already in a tough spot of finding more resources for the police department against a shrinking budget. The voter’s will didn’t make this task any easier, but their voices are what matters most in the end.

Now it’s time for city and police officials to make the necessary, though tough, adjustments.

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