By Elsa Maxey
Whether you are in favor of red light cameras in Sugar Land or not, ignoring the fine will end up costing the offender, more than likely the owner of the vehicle, $100. City spokesperson Doug Adolph reports that “failure to pay the civil penalty within 45 days after receipt of this notice of violation shall result in the imposition of a late-payment fee of $25 per state law.” The fine is $75. Notices are sent within 30 days of an offense with payment options and instructions on how to appeal the violation.
But, that’s not what H.R. Van Der Grinten, who lives in Sugar Land’s extra territorial jurisdiction and is the Founder of Houston Coalition Against Red Light Cameras, is concerned about these days. He continues getting signatures on a petition so that a measure will go before voters letting them decide whether to continue to operate the cameras. Procedures for cities choosing to use red light cameras came from the state, and the Texas Department of Transportation also addresses installation and operational requirements, including contracting with a vendor. In Sugar Land, it’s American Traffic Solutions (ATS), which operates the Safe Light Sugar Land program “allowing police officers to focus on other law enforcement activities that enhance public safety,” said Adolph.
Capt. Van, a sea captain who goes by the short name, says that Sugar Land’s recent account is false about the use of a collection agency for the unpaid fines. Last week he even filed an open records request with the city, still pending, asking for the name and contact information of the collection agency used by ATS. Capt. Van said a city representative told him the city is not allowed to deal directly with a collection agency, a red flag to Capt. Van. But, it’s ATS which “uses a collection agency as part of their agreement with the city,” said Adolph, and it “manages the relationship with the collection firm.
At this point, not satisfied with the response from Sugar Land, Capt. Van maintains that this “is a blatant attempt to cover-up the fact that RLC (Red Light Camera) fines are virtually voluntary.” However, Adolph told the “Star” on Monday that “payment is not voluntary per state law.” He also said that ATS handles collections “per the agreement,” although he did not disclose the name of the collection agency.
Sugar Land reports 14,686 violations with an 80 percent collection rate for the last fiscal year ending in Sept. “Net red light camera collections totaled $529,636,” and 50 percent or $264,818 was sent to the state, he said. Adolph also said that revenue from red light penalties in Sugar Land goes into a special city account for traffic safety programs, intersection improvements, public safety programs and traffic enforcement, including the Safe Light Sugar Land initiative.