By KATIE HOOS
Drivers in Westchester County will soon be under the watchful eye of more red light cameras, with New Rochelle and Mount Vernon slated to install the passive traffic enforcers in the coming months.
Following approval from the state Legislature earlier this month, the cities will have the authority to install red light cameras in up to 12 intersections each and use them for the next five years once Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, signs off on the legislation.
New Rochelle city officials filed a home rule request last year, which, if accepted, grants individual municipalities the authority to set up their own system of local government without charter from the state.
While the bill awaits the governor’s signature, New Rochelle Police Commissioner Patrick Carroll said the city is still far from seeing the cameras and has more preparations to make.
“We still have to send [the red light cameras] out to bid with a company and determine how many intersections they’ll go in,” he said. “They may go in about six or seven intersections, and we can always move them around if there’s good compliance at one intersection after a while.”
New Rochelle City Manager Chuck Strome said the city will launch a request for proposals, RFP, for a red light camera manufacturer as soon as the governor signs the bill into law, but the RFP process could take a few months and the city will likely not see any cameras installed until next year.
Back in 2012, members of the New Rochelle Citizens Budget Committee asked the City Council to look into installing traffic enforcement cameras in the interest of improved roadway safety.
According to New Rochelle Police Department figures for 2013, the department issued 342 red light violations in 2013 and 357 red light violations in 2012.
In April 2013, the city launched a 48-hour trial period testing red light cameras from Arizona-based manufacturer Redflex Traffic Systems Inc.
“There were a lot of violations to justify doing this,” Carroll said of the trial period. “That’s why we went to the next step.”
Redflex installed cameras in the intersections of North Avenue and Huguenot Street, Main Street and North Avenue, Main Street and Webster Avenue, and Webster and Lincoln avenues following police department recommendations.
These intersections, according to Carroll, have a history of a high number of traffic violations and accidents, particularly accidents involving pedestrians.
More than 100 traffic violations were recorded across the four intersections, including running red lights and illegally turning right on red during the 48-hour period.
“Obviously, it puts people on notice…to be more aware of red and yellow lights,” Carroll said of the cameras. “There have been mixed reviews, and we’re taking them into consideration.”
Some critics believe municipalities are more interested in the camera’s revenue generation than safety.
Currently, Yonkers, New York City, Rochester and Nassau and Suffolk counties are the only locales in the state with red light cameras. Westchester’s largest city, Yonkers first installed the cameras in 2010 and has them set up at 25 intersections. The cameras issue around 16,000 tickets a month. The Yonkers red light cameras generate nearly $4 million a year in revenue, half of which goes to the camera’s manufacturer, American Traffic Solutions, according to city officials.
While Strome said the amount of revenue to be generated by New Rochelle’s red light cameras is still undetermined due to the uncertainty of how many intersections in which the cameras will be installed, the intention of the cameras is focused on improving safety, not bringing in revenue.
“This is not about being a revenue generator,” he said. “It’s really for public safety.”
In both Mount Vernon and New Rochelle, red light
camera violations will be considered a civil penalty and will fine the vehicle’s registered owner $50, since only the license plate would be photographed, not the driver of