Chandler to renew contract for street cameras - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Chandler to renew contract for street cameras

April 29th, 2021 SanTan Sun News
Chandler to renew contract for street cameras

By Kevin Reagan
Staff Writer

The city is preparing to renew its contract with a vendor to keep Chandler’s red-light enforcement cameras operational for another five years.

Even though Chandler’s photo-enforcement traffic program is expected to lose $200,000 this year, city officials believe it is still worth continuing for the next few years in order to curb speeders and red-light runners.

“From the beginning, the overall goals of the program were to shape behavior, to influence drivers, to reduce collisions in our city,” Police Chief Sean Duggan said.

Duggan said he’s confident Chandler’s cameras have been “beneficial” to the city over the last five years and warned of the consequences that would result in deactivating them.

The city’s busiest intersections won’t have 24/7 monitoring for traffic violators, Duggan said, and his department doesn’t have enough manpower to continuously surveille those intersections.

“We have fewer traffic officers now than we did back when this started,” the chief said.

Chandler began installing traffic cameras in 2000 at four intersections in the city’s northern region. In 2016, the city expanded its enforcement to 12 intersections spread out throughout Chandler by contracting with a private vendor.

Chandler’s contract with American Traffic Solutions is set to expire this year and extending it to last through 2026 will cost the city about $2.5 million.

Last year, Chandler issued about 23,000 traffic citations and half of them were generated by traffic cameras.

The number of citations recorded at each intersection can vary widely, with some intersections responsible for two to four times the number of tickets issued in other parts of Chandler.

According to data released last year by Chandler Police, the cameras at McQueen and Queen Creek roads issued 8,376 tickets in a year. The intersection of Arizona Avenue and Ocotillo Road recorded the city’s second-highest number of tickets at 2,355.

Chandler’s 10 other intersections with traffic cameras issued between 684 and 2,200 tickets during the fiscal year which ended June 30, 2018.

The city’s data show the number of accidents at the 12 intersections with traffic cameras can also vary.

The McQueen-Queen Creek roads intersection, which recorded the lowest number of traffic tickets, had 11 traffic accidents during the last six months of 2018. The 38 accidents at the Dobson-Ray intersection were the most mishaps at any intersection with camera enforcement.

The photo-enforcement cameras have not always been popular in Arizona and some state lawmakers have repeatedly attempted and failed to outlaw them. 

Some cities have discontinued their traffic cameras over the years due to fears that they were perceived by the public a “money grab.”

Chandler’s revenue generated from the traffic cameras has fluctuated over the years.

Between 2017 and 2019, Chandler made a profit off of its photo-enforcement program and reinvested the money back into safety initiatives.

Duggan said the city has policies in place to restrict how profits can be spent and the money must be used to enhance traffic safety in Chandler.

Chandler currently stands to lose about $200,000 this fiscal year from the camera program. But Duggan said the loss balances out with the profits earned in previous years, allowing the city to break even at the end of its five-year contract.

According to the contract, Chandler must pay its vendor $20 each time an officer uses a photo to issue a citation, which is one aspect of the contract that doesn’t sit well with some people.

Councilman Matt Orlando doesn’t think it makes much sense for the city to pay to use photos, considering the vendor needs police officers to issue citations. 

“They should be giving us the photo for free,” Orlando said. “Otherwise, they can’t do anything, we can’t do anything.”

The city is able to earn revenue through the citations in several ways.

Chandler receives about 40 percent of the citation fee charged to traffic violators. The city can additionally earn a portion of the tuition students pay to attend traffic school.

Chandler can also get reimbursed if a citizen ignores a traffic ticket and the city has to dispatch a process server.

Duggan said his agency tries its best to assure the public that the cameras are not being used to cheat them. They’re stationed out in the open with plenty of signage around that alert drivers to their presence, Duggan said.

“There is no attempt to hide these,” he added. “We are doing everything we can to give people warning.”