Park Ridge defends red-light camera as safety measure, says city will find alternatives to collect fines after state pulls out – Chicago Tribune

Illinois State Comptroller Susana Mendoza’s announcement that her office will no longer help municipalities collect fines for red-light camera violations will force the city of Park Ridge to find another means of obtaining income.

But Andrea Lamberg, finance director for the city of Park Ridge, said she doesn’t think the change will have a significant impact on the city because the number of outstanding fines is low and because the city already uses an agency. collection as a step to secure payment.

“In the past, the city also submitted due and unpaid red light fines to the comptroller’s iDrop (Illinois Debt Recovery Offset Portal) program,” she explained. “It’s the additional step with the controller that will no longer take place. All other collection efforts will continue.

Going forward, the city will rely on a collection agency to guarantee unpaid fines, rather than the state’s free debt collection program, Lamberg said. The collection agency will keep a portion of the fees that will ultimately be paid, she said.

Last week, Mendoza announced that the Illinois Comptroller’s Office would stop collecting unpaid fines on behalf of municipalities starting Feb. 6.

In a press release from the comptroller’s office, Mendoza called the red-light camera system “clearly broken” and a “shady process that victimizes taxpayers.” She referenced reports of a federal corruption investigation involving a red-light camera company and said $100 bills “fall hardest and disproportionately on minority and low-income drivers,” fines doubling and nearly tripling if left unpaid.

The press release also referenced reports that most red light violations are by cars not coming to a complete stop before turning right on a red light.

Park Ridge has had a red light camera on westbound Oakton Street at Northwest Highway for the past 10 years. The city has a contract with RedSpeed, a company that maintains the camera, submits violations to the police department, and collects payments for violations. The current contract ends this year and it will be up to the city council to decide whether it should be renewed, Park Ridge Police Chief Frank Kaminski said.

In the last fiscal year, which ended April 30, 2019, the city of Park Ridge collected $222,925 in red light fines, Lamberg said. With fees paid for the program of $97,359, the city’s net income was $125,566 for the year, she said.

“On average, 86% of fines are paid on time and 14% are remitted to collections,” she said. “Of those turned over to collections, about half are successfully collected.”

Notes not collected through the collection agency were previously sent to the state, she said.

“We will have to handle this collection effort internally or hand it off to a contractor to do it for us,” Lamberg said.

The Chicago Tribune reported that red-light camera company SafeSpeed ​​is the subject of a federal corruption investigation involving state and municipal officials.

Kaminski, who supported the city’s red light camera at Oakton Street and Northwest Highway and said it reduces the risk of crashes at the intersection, declined to comment on Mendoza’s decision to no longer help municipalities collect unpaid fines. He said he currently has no concerns with city supplier RedSpeed.

“I wouldn’t paint everyone with the same wide brush,” he said. “We go through so many checks and balances to see that everyone is treated fairly and we try to use technology to reduce accidents. I think that side of the coin is very important.

Kaminski said a trained officer reviews all recorded violations that are reported by RedSpeed ​​and determines which ones will be ticketed. The officer is asked to approve tickets he would issue if they were in a patrol car sitting at the intersection watching traffic, Kaminski said.

Last month, 274 tickets were issued and 23 were dismissed by the review officer, according to monthly data shared with the city council.

When a ticket is issued, it is sent to the registered owner of the car. The recipient can dispute the ticket in front of an adjudication hearing officer at Park Ridge City Hall, the police chief said.

“There are a lot of checks and balances,” insisted Kaminski.

Since the Park Ridge red light camera was activated in 2010, the vast majority of tickets issued have been issued for right turns on red, according to monthly reports from the police department. In December, for example, 262 of 274 approved tickets went to car owners who made an improper right turn on red, according to department data. Ten tickets were issued for alleged direct red light violations.

“You are supposed to stop. It’s the law,” Kaminski said.

[email protected]

Twitter: @Jen_Tribune

Previous How to calculate DTI, your debt-to-income ratio ― and why you should
Next Negative Yielding Debt Presents Major Risks for Investors