Cathedral City to keep red light cameras

CATHEDRAL CITY, Calif. - Right light cameras are here to stay in Cathedral City at least for now. The city council voted to renew their contract with the company who runs the traffic system, even if it will mean a tighter budget. 

"I don't like it personally," said resident Jordan Calhoun.

Run at red light at one of three intersections in Cathedral City, expect to pay. 

"When my girlfriend got one it was like $475 to turn right on red," said Calhoun.

Our cameras caught not one, but two drivers running a red light. 

"They went off, but you probably won't see them but at night you can really see it because it lights the entire intersection, we got ya," said council member Greg Pettis. 

Drivers have noticed.  Before cameras were installed at Date Palm and Ramon there were 29 accidents in 2005.  In 2008 there were only 7 accidents reported.

"We reduced accidents by over two thirds in those intersections, we've saved lives," said Pettis.

"That is really what this is about, making sure that people are safe. You can't have a police officer at every corner," said Mayor Kathy DeRosa.

Not everyone we talked to agreed. 

"I think they are a profit source for cities and something that private companies profit on that they shouldn't," said resident Martin Lax.

But the red light cameras aren't making the city any money.  In fact, last year it cost them over $40,000 to keep it in service.  Less people getting tickets, means less money is going to pay for the system.

"We don't necessarily recoup all of the costs but that was not the whole idea, the idea was again safety on our streets not necessarily cost effectiveness," said DeRosa.

"In reality that hard number doesn't take into account, police time and resources, ambulance, paramedics all of that that goes into it and the medical bills, all of that has gone away. 

Over the life of the system, the city has come out about even, but it may not always stay that way.

"Even if it does cost us more money, it is still more cost effective than putting officers on the street," said DeRosa.

Using officers instead would cost the city 6 times as much.  However, the city may not be able to rely on the cameras forever. Right now a case before the California Supreme Court could affect the future of red light cameras.  A decision is expected by July, but many cities aren't waiting and choosing to stop their programs now.

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