Red-light cameras too costly
Snellville halts use

SNELLVILLE - City council members thought they would have to decide whether to terminate the city's red-light camera contracts with LaserCraft Inc. on Monday night, but Police Chief Roy Whitehead suggested instead that the contracts and camera use be suspended for 90 days while staff members and city leaders evaluate whether to continue using them.

Since Snellville first began using red-light cameras at key intersections throughout the city in September 2005, monthly violations have decreased from 3,000 to about 750 at the end of 2008. Since the Georgia Department of Transportation added an extra second to the yellow phase of traffic lights with cameras on Jan. 1, monthly violations in Snellville have dropped to about 500.

The issue, ironically, is a good one for a city to have. Violations have decreased so dramatically in just more than three years that the cameras don't pay for themselves any longer. In fact, the city isn't breaking even.

City manager Russell Treadway agreed with Whitehead, backing up his position with graphs and charts that showed a decrease in violations and revenue while the cost of the camera use remains high. "We need 690-700 citations a month to break even," Treadway said.

"It costs us about $40,000 a month to have the cameras," said councilman Warren Auld, who applauded the results with respect to public safety. "Our state legislators need to be figuring out a way to help continue their use."

Auld predicted that after about three months of discontinued camera monitoring at intersections, the violation rate will skyrocket. "But in this economy, the city can't afford to keep paying $40,000 a month," Auld added.

Whitehead, city staff and council members will take the 90 days to evaluate the feasibility of renewing the contracts with LaserCraft or cancelling them. The chief and all council members agreed Monday that public safety is paramount.

There will be no charge to the city during the suspension period.