Task force recommends keeping Sugar Land’s red light cameras

By Betsy Dolan 

After hearing from people on both sides of the controversial red light camera program since August, Sugar Land’s Traffic Safety Task Force has recommended that the program continue with a few tweaks.

Task force chairman, Harvey Zinn, asked the City Council on November 19 to consider four modifications–whether the addition of one-second to the yellow light length time would improve safety, evaluating signage to better inform drivers, review current fine assessment the current wording in the “notice of violation” to make sure it is accurate and non-threatening.

The City Council did not take action on any of the proposed recommendations.

Mike Goodrum, Executive Director of Management Services, said the police department will come back in 45 days with an agenda item for the council’s consideration.

The task force held their last meeting on November 14 and voted 9-1 to keep the red light camera program. Despite the city’s claims that the cameras have reduced accidents by 58%, the task force was not convinced. The group did acknowledge the cameras are an important public safety tool that contributes to the safe operation of high-volume intersections in Sugar Land.

“The task force has concluded that red light cameras change driver behavior for the better and enables our police officers to be reallocated to deterring crime in Sugar Land,” said Zinn.

Helwig Van der Grinten (Captain Van) founder of the Houston Coalition Against Red Light Cameras said three of the four modifications recommended by the task force were ideas he had initially proposed but were rejected by the city. Captain Van urged the City Council to allow voters to decide whether to keep the red light camera program.

“The voters are the only proper judge of the effectiveness of these modifications. The city should respect the right of the voters to decide these issues by placing (them) on the ballot for the May 2014 election”, said Van der Grinten.

In April, a petition with more than 3,000 signatures calling for the red light camera issue to be put on the November ballot was rejected by the city. The 11-member task force was appointed by the City Council in July in response to the petition.

The task force was charged with conducting an independent review of the city’s red light camera program and recommending elimination of the program, modification of the program, or continuation of the program.

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