Sarasota to keep red light cameras, for now

- The debate over red lights cameras is picking up steam, not only on the state level but also locally. in Sarasota, city officials are moving forward with plans to keep the cameras around at least for now. But a new study is challenging their effectiveness.

“We shouldn't be turning to these types of devices for revenue,” said city commissioner Hagen Brody.

Brody was one of two city leaders who voted against renewing the red light program, but it passed on a 3-2 vote with the city opting to contract with a new vendor.

“I believe the voters sent me here not to rubber stamp everything,” said Brody. “Voters want to have that discussion that conversation because i do hear a lot of interest on the subject.”

Brody explains whether the cameras are as beneficial as some believe he's unsure, and feels voter opinions are definitely mixed.

“There is data and information on both sides of it that it does improve safety in certain circumstances but then it'll also create complications,” he said.

A Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles report concluded crashes are up over 10% since introducing cameras to local intersections. And rear-end collisions in cities with the cameras are also up more than 10%.  Sarasota policeman Todd Tschetter says the city has had their cameras since 2011. He says at the intersections where the cameras are stationed wrecks were down by a total of 30 last year.

“Traffic safety is the number one reason for this and it is having a positive impact on that,” Tschetter said.

On the state level, there's a bill now moving through the legislature which would remove all Florida traffic cameras by 2021. In Sarasota, officials say the new vendor will actually reduce the current number of cameras by three and there will be less tax dollars used to fund it, approximately $20,000 less each month.

‘Until the commission or some change in the state law changes and we have to abandon them then I believe we'll stay with them,” he said.

The new cameras will go live in about 2 to 3 months. Commissioners opted against using the technology which would have allowed for the cameras to be used to help in things like Amber and Silver alerts.

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