East Valley speeders and red-light runners worried about photo enforcement, you have an oasis: Gilbert. The town doesn’t have a photo program, and it doesn’t want one.
Gilbert police and many elected officials have balked at using photo enforcement during the years. They say the system has flaws, isn’t cost-effective and doesn’t fit a need for the town.
“I don’t support it,” Mayor Steve Berman said. “When the issue’s been raised it’s been awfully unpopular. There are certainly arguments for it. But I don’t see Gilbert doing it anytime soon.”
Chandler, Mesa, Scottsdale and Tempe all use photo enforcement. And Tempe launched a massive expansion of its program Nov. 1.
However, Gilbert police say that the number of red-light violations, intersection crashes and speed-limit offenders doesn’t merit photo enforcement
“Every jurisdiction has its own needs, and we don’t feel that it fits here,” said police spokesman Sgt. Mark Marino, who worked on a traffic study on photo enforcement for Gilbert two years ago.
Cities use photo enforcement by placing cameras at intersections and busy roads and also utilize roaming radar-equipped vehicles to catch speeders and red-light violators.
In 2006, 21 Gilbert intersections each had more than 25 crashes, with eight intersections netting 40 crashes or more. The intersection of Guadalupe and Gilbert road was worst with 55.
Marino said the town doesn’t use radar vehicles because the department feels Gilbert is best suited by officers citing motorists for violations.
During a speed enforcement campaign last month, Gilbert police stopped 34 drivers for speeding in three hours along Pecos Road between Greenfield and Higley roads. Only cars traveling more than 57 mph were stopped in the 45 mph zone.
“We want officers out in the community and enforcing speeds rather than some van sitting on the side of the road,” he said.
Many communities experience dramatic reductions in crashes and red-light violations after using photo enforcement on streets and intersections.
Scottsdale and Mesa reported 20 percent decreases in collisions at camera locations shortly after introducing their programs. In a nationwide study, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found red-light cameras reduced injury crashes by 25 percent to 30 percent.
Gilbert Town Councilman Don Skousen has long pushed for photo enforcement. He proposed a program to the town in 2004 that was shot down, he said.
“I’m definitely a proponent of the red-light cameras because people just try to beat them,” said Skousen, a former police officer and judge, who serves on the council’s public safety subcommittee.
He also said the town needs to consider speed cameras.
“We are getting some good roads out here, and some people think they can just hot rod the hell out of them,” Skousen said.
Photo enforcement has been costly for East Valley cities despite claims that the programs are designed to generate additional revenue. That fact has also weighed into Gilbert’s decision.
Mesa, Scottsdale and Tempe have all lost money from their photo enforcement efforts. During recent years, Tempe has posted yearly losses of $285,000, and Mesa has lost more than $100,000 a month.
Grainy pictures, incorrect identifications and issues with process servers and collecting fines have also been challenges.
Berman said incorrectly citing drivers is his main concern.
“The theory is: Do you execute against an innocent party or let a guilty man go free?” he said. “You have to pick, and that’s what the choice feels like sometimes.”
The fact that someone can be cited and go through the system without knowing it is problematic, he said.
“You can get arrested down the road for something you never knew you got,” Berman said.
Yet the challenges haven’t deterred other cities from the program.
“Every city is different, but we do everything we can to put measures in place to ensure the safety of our citizens,” Tempe police Sgt. Mike Horn said.
East Valley Photo Enforcement
Intersection cameras: 20
Radar vans: 2
Intersection cameras: 11
Radar vans: 0
Intersection cameras: 30
Radar vans: 4
Intersection cameras: 9
Radar vans: 4