Kenner to consider automatic cameras to ticket speeders

 

Policeman with police cruiser

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By Drew Broach, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune

dbroach@nola.com

The Times-Picayune

 

Red-light cameras in unincorporated East Jefferson were unplugged in 2010, terminated by a Parish Council that had authorized them just four years earlier. Now Kenner officials are considering automated traffic enforcement cameras to catch speeding motorists in Louisiana’s sixth most populous city.

 

Police Chief Michael Glaser has persuaded City Councilman Mike Sigur to introduce an “electronic traffic safety civil ordinance” that would allow camera systems to photograph speeding vehicles and ticket the owners, according to the agenda for the council meeting on Friday (Nov. 16). The council may not vote on the proposal until Dec. 14.

 

The proposal says it is intended to protect the health, safety and welfare of the motoring public. Ticketed motorists would be subject to a $75 penalty for driving 10 mph to 20 mph over the speed limit, $150 for driving 21 mph or more over the limit. Failure to contest the citation or pay the penalty in time would cost the violator another $50.

Glaser and Sigur were re-elected to office without opposition in March. Glaser did not immediately return calls for comment Thursday, but Sigur said the proposal is a response to widespread demands from the public.

“We all get just a volume of phone calls from residents about speeding in neighborhoods, in school zones,” Sigur said. But with only about eight officers in the traffic division, he said, the police chief “just doesn’t have the personnel to assign enough officers … to be effective.”

The proposal is bound to stir debate, as automated camera ticketing systems in the New Orleans area and across the United States have been praised for calming traffic but panned as political money grabs. Sigur denied that revenue is the motivating factor in Kenner, saying the proposed civil penalty is far less than the fine for a police-issued speeding ticket costing $200 to $300 for a first-time offender.

Beginning in 2006, Jefferson Parish let a contractor erect cameras at 11 intersections in unincorporated areas to catch vehicles running stop lights. About 180,000 tickets were issued, generating almost $20 million to be split between the contractor and the government.

The Parish Council abandoned the program in 2010 after discovering that the contractor was planning to send about 3.2 percent of its share to its Jefferson Parish lobbyist. Litigation ensued and was resolved in 2015 with motorists receiving refunds of $20 to $30 each on tickets that had cost them $110 each.

Since then, there have been no enforcement cameras in East Jefferson. In West Jefferson, however, Gretna and Westwego have their own automated camera ticketing systems.

 

Sigur said he does not envision fixed cameras as Jefferson Parish had. Instead, he suspects Glaser would buy or contract for two mobile camera units that could be moved as needed to speeding hotspots.

Like many traffic enforcement camera programs, Glaser’s proposal would make Kenner violations a civil offense, keeping the ticket off one’s driving record. Tickets would be mailed to the vehicle’s owner, regardless who is driving.