Camera Controversy

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Knoxville (WVLT) - Knoxville's red-light cameras are raising red flags with a couple of East Tennessee lawmakers.

The problem? How much money they've generated, and for whom, in their first six months.

They say the camera can't lie because it never blinks, but does it blink too quickly?

When it comes to running Red Lights in Knoxville, "see man, that is close!" Pictures might suggest "everybody has. Everybody' who's on the road has," says Knoxvillian John Morgan.

Not quite.

But after 21,000 tickets in six months, "The question is, is this a matter of revenue or a matter of safety," says Representative Joe McCord of Maryville. "Sometimes they will decrease from 5 seconds to three seconds before they go in place."

"What are you saying, like they turn yellow too fast, so you shouldn't be getting a ticket. That's unfair, I guess," says UT Student Allison Kenner.

State Representative Joe McCord wants to require any camera monitored stoplight have at least a five second cycle from yellow to red.

Any less, the ticket gets tossed.

"Redflex has not authorized to alter any light sequence at any intersection within the city of Knoxville," says Knoxville Police Captain Gordon Catlett. "Our traffic engineers have sole responsibility for that timing."

Captain Catlett says that timings will vary, "based on traffic flow and speed limits of any given roadway."

But nobody, he says, has tinkered with them before or since the cameras have gone in.

"If you travel the same area all the time, it would probably make you a little more alert, rather than jumping a light on the way to work," Morgan says.

Police say stats prove the cameras have made the streets safer. Seventeen percent fewer crashes overall. Forty five percent fewer T-Bone, or side impact crashes.

"It makes me more alert," Kenner says.

McCord's bill would prevent splitting the ticket revenues with the company who supplies the cameras.

Redflex keeps about two-thirds of the almost $700,000, Knoxville's cameras have brought in so far, but police say, it also pays the full cost of running.

"There's no cost to local taxpayers," says Captain Catlett. "The only people that pay for this program are in fact, the violators of traffic ordinances."

That, Allison Kenner says is as it should be. "You shouldn't be running them, so if you're running them you should be getting a ticket."

Police say the red light cameras are catching 1,500 to 2,000 violators a month at the 13 intersections they monitor.

At 50 bucks a pop, Knoxville's share, last year, more than $200,000.

The difference: if you're caught on camera, the violation doesn't count against your license.

If a live officer catches you, you'll lose points.