Opinion

By Reggie Connell

I hate red light cameras. Who doesn’t?

I’m not going to get into specifics about my ire for them, but it has merit. Trust me.

Okay… well I will get into a little of my angst about RLC’s… first of all they are sneaky. They sit on a pole and judge you, and they judge you without direct interaction… Then a month later you learn in the mail of your infraction. It’s frustrating and maddening.

Okay, my venting is over.

I know my readers are shaking their heads “yes” emphatically and agreeing with every word I write and adding their experiences to the disdain they hold for RLC’s. And I hate to trick readers who are in agreement with my premise, but here is the thing…

We may be wrong.

Spend some time with Captain Randy Fernandez and Lieutenant Steve Brick of the Apopka Police Department, and they might change your mind. They are advocates for the ugly black boxes which are sprinkled all over Apopka.

Fernandez and Brick insist the RLC’s are 100% about public safety, and they make a good case for it.

I pointed out the report on RLC’s by the Florida Department of Highway Safety that states both crashes and revenues are up… which would suggest that revenues are the primary reason if public safety has not improved, but Fernandez pointed out an alternative cause – growth.

“What you have to look at is the increase in driving and in community growth,” said Fernandez. “We wrote more tickets and responded to more calls in 2016. There is growth in the area. It’s expected that with growth and increased driving there will be an increase in crashes and revenues.”

In Fernandez’s viewpoint, it is entirely about public safety and changing the way drivers are thinking behind the wheel. And in Apopka, the statistics show a different outcome than the statewide report indicates.

“We have not seen the same results in this community. We are modifying behavior. One of the deadliest crashes is an intersection T-bone. Red light cameras modify driver behavior that would create that type of crash.”

It applies in particular to brand new drivers who have not built up years of driver behavior, according to Fernandez.

“We’ve all been driving for a long time,” Fernandez says. “But the 16-year-old who just got their license is just beginning their driving behavior. The next generation will be better drivers. Every generation is going to be better.”

They also take exception to the notion that cameras are being put in places with a high volume of traffic as opposed to where there are safety concerns.

“We have intersections that don’t produce, but they modify behavior,” said Brick. “We are changing the philosophy of stopping at red lights. Either way, we are focusing on community safety. At Sheeler and 441, pedestrian injuries and fatalities are down from 2007-current than from before we installed a red light camera, and the rate of red light infractions are down as well.”

Fernandez also points out that RLC’s are only one part of APD efforts to improve public safety on the Apopka roads.

“The red light camera is not the pill that cured the disease. It is a component. But pedestrian access, sidewalks, etc. are also a part of the improvement.”

He also insists that the revenues from the Red Light Camera Program are not the focus.

“The money is not important. We want the program to pay for itself. And it’s the violators who pay for it instead of it being an additional tax.”

According to Apopka Public Information Officer Robert Sargent, the net revenue from the red light camera program is $700,626.58 for 2016 which sounds like a lot of money but put into perspective with a budget of over $100 million; it amounts to less than one percent. In fact, the entire category of revenues generated from fines and forfeitures is 5% of the City of Apopka budget revenue.

Here is how it is described in the budget:

FINES AND FORFEITURES – 5% of this year’s general fund budget

“The City accounts for revenues generated from traffic tickets and code violations in this category. This source has decreased by approximately .4% due to a decrease in traffic light detection device infractions. The long-term outlook for this source is not good. The state is taking a larger and larger share of the ticket revenues to support the cost of the courts.  Therefore this revenue source may be increasing now, but could decrease in the long-term.”

And Fernandez can foresee a day where no red light cameras exist.

“It wouldn’t hurt my feelings if we had no red light cameras and no one running red lights. It’s about the public’s safety, not the cameras.”

It wouldn’t hurt my feelings either, but after spending time with the APD, I better understand their use. And I have to admit; my driving behavior has changed for the good.

Reggie Connell is the Managing Editor of The Apopka Voice.

13 COMMENTS

  1. I am so tired of the red light camera debate, and of the state dragging their feet on the issue of getting rid of them. Old boring news! If they are voted down by a majority vote, I will be surprised at the Apopka City Council, but at least, that is what I hope for.

  2. So our beautiful tall Confederate statue memorial of Johnny Reb has been taken from us at Lake Eola per Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and sent to the cemetery. I hope when they get around to opening the time capsule that was discovered inside the statue that they will find a message that whoever complained about the statue in the future or moves it again will be forever cursed! That would serve complainer Porter and Mayor Dyer right! So glad the gentleman that runs the cemetery said anyone is welcome to protest over there, on the 120 acres, because maybe I will go protest the Union memorial there that it needs to go, and be moved back up North where it belongs!

  3. I looked at the billboard again on 436 before Long John Silvers and yes, it is 25,000 homeless children within 15 miles, and the message is on both sides of the digital billboard that changes……and……I see the City of Apopka has put up a paid digital billboard advertising the 4th of July fireworks at Northwest Recreation Complex!!!

  4. I don’t mind the cameras; if you break the law, pay your fine. What I do mind is the absolute rip-off and injustice of the $250, NON-REFUNDABLE fee to dispute the ticket. Even if you win you have to pay. Hey Captain Randy Fernandez and Lieutenant Steve Brick, if it’s not about the money, get rid of the fee.

  5. I also see the city or maybe the school, is sodding the area of the two ball fields around the ninth grade center area. Nice big rolls of sod that looks like giant rolls of carpet, picked up with a forklift stuck through the center hole. Nice. Love sod done that way. My sod the city laid down in my front yard, after the boring machine work, is growing and green and doing good. I just needed a little more to fill all the area in that is bare where they dug. Maybe I will email Glen to see if they can bring a few more pieces……….

  6. The rat race is over and the rat won again…..Georgia special Congressional race. I thought there was a federal law against federal elected officials influencing or pulling for, or against candidates, if you are elected to a federal position, but Donald Duck Trump gets on tv and said that Ossoff would raise people’s taxes…..the rules don’t apply to him, I suppose, like all the other rules that he ignores.

  7. To the lady looking for recommendations for places that you can take your dog, that was posting on Apopka Then and Now website……google Bring Fido.com……….and you will find loads of restaurants, campsites, parks, events, etc. that you can take your dog with you. Just leave them home for fireworks events!

  8. This comment is addressed to the Apopka Chamber of Commerce: I have lived in Apopka now for over 15 years, I do cross the 441 light on Piedmont on average about of 2500 times a year if not more, I’ve done plenty of business in Apopka,ranging from tires to auto parts,repairs,restaurants and many different shops. About 3 years ago my Dodge Durango started having PCM problems, needle gauges dropping,stalling at random times. On my way to Russell automotive to put my truck under diagnosis, my truck stalled right in the middle of the light, and I was caught by the red light scam. Armed with receipts and proof that my vehicle was experiencing serious trouble and the fact that I did not run that red light in the past after crossing that intersection sometimes 6 times a day while shopping for so many years. I went to the court to listen to the Judge admonish me about “the statutes”. I could have started my defense to reply to him that The Constitution clearly states that Police officer has to be present and witness the alleged action. I was shut down in seconds, no chance to even talk. Ok I say,here is my $300. Ever since that date I have avoided shopping or doing business in Apopka, 5 years now,heading for a 6th . I do my shopping now Outside of Apopka, and give my business to municipalities that do not support the red light scam. You can all argue and reply to me that hurting business is unfair and I can tell you in truth,Apopka will not see one more dime from me until All red light tickets are abolished . So here is your economic calculator of the damage your red light scam is doing: My Average expense in shops a year in Apopka before the ticket was around$1200-$3000 per year vs $150 profit for the City and $150 for the scammer contractor.( They have Federal charges against them in other states) Only the Chamber of Commerce understands the value of paying costumers…Keep it up Apopka, your competitors in near cities love my business, I am sure your merchants are reaping great profits and they do not care if I no longer shop there….

  9. Accidents are up. Panic breaking and accelerating through intersections is up. Every ticket proves that redlight cameras don’t stop redlight runners. Stop the charade! If it is about the safety, HIRE MORE OFFICERS!!!! It is ridiculous for Apopka to spend $100,000.00 per month rent for these cameras and our city isn’t safer and only ATS and politicians are profiting! It is time for Apopka to lead the way and eliminate these cameras like other progressive cities in Florida. We tried this experiment for 10yrs and it’s time to eliminate the cams….

  10. BTW I have spoken to Apopka Home Depot to purchase a Window AC unit around $600, They had it in stock,so I grabbed my keys and then I remember, Apopka ripped me off with a red light ticket… Turned around drove away and bought it somewhere else . Today I have spoken to one the best Optometrists in the area, I was ready to schedule a $100 eye exam,until I saw the location,..No go, I will have to drive and find another one,perhaps Altamonte,it’s a longer drive but I do not have to deal with revenue collecting scams. Needed new brakes two weeks ago, I did not even looked at Apopka stores, got them somewhere else. The most expensive purchase they’ve lost from me few months ago was a new Transmission, yes I looked at the Apopka stores,same price shorter distance to drive,but I am no longer interested in doing business with Apopka merchants until they make the city understand that red light tickets, are a dishonest scheme,keep the cameras for accident recording if you wish,but as long as the city continue to issue red light tickets,you the merchants will be the ones affected.

  11. I don’t mind the red light cameras most of the time, but some intersections are too big to cross when the light turns yellow and your about to cross the intersection and then the light turns red while you’re half way through the intersection something needs to be fixed.

  12. If red light cameras were not about revenue there would have been ZERO issues when the city increased the length of yellow lights. Instead, the state, noticing reduced REVENUE from the red light cameras ordered the city to reset the lights to the state MINIMUM length. The revenue, presumably, increased to acceptable levels.

  13. Here’s how to prove the politicians are Lying! If it is about safety, then take all the money you make and donate it to the high schools so they can have a driver’s education program, or donate the money to charity!!!!!!!!! Folks, accidents are up, people are not bringing their business or businesses here, this program is doing harm to our community, but our politicians are bought and paid for with as little as a campaign contribution. Sadly, after 2.5 hours of negative aspects to this program only 2 commissioners had the internal fortitude to vote no. Your spinster mayor wanted to ignore facts and play pr sales guy. I hear there is an election coming……. Out with the anectdotes and in with the future!!!! FYI, I have not gotten a ticket, I don’t think people should run red lights, I have seen 3 accidents caused by these cameras, and an officer is always better than a pole!

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