Despite recent news by surrounding jurisdictions reaping profits from red light cameras, Fairfax County currently has no plans to reinstate its program.
The Virginia legislature issued a red light camera law in the 1990s and Fairfax County gained red light cameras at 10 different intersections. The Photo Red Light Monitoring program expired in Fairfax County on June 30, 2005. The state legislation was renewed but new requirements were added. The county would have had to upgrade from film to digital cameras and provide for additional engineering studies.
A recent Washington Post article reported Washington, D.C. made $55.1 million in 2011 from its red light and speed cameras. In Alexandria, the city in the first three months of 2012.
Fairfax County Police Traffic Enforcement Supervisor Bob Otten said the Fairfax program was not generating an income and policies did not allow the county to charge more than $50 per ticket.
“It was a very expensive program to operate but we saw great success and it was not about the money – at $50 a ticket, you’re not getting any money,” Otten said.
Over the life of the program, which ran from 2002 to 2005, the county lost $1,371,425. Revenues from citations began to decrease in the second half of 2003 because signal timing changes were made at the intersections where the cameras were located and drivers became more aware of the presence of the cameras.
“The number of tickets went down and we needed less people to review (the film),” Otten said. “We had police personnel looking at the pictures and, of course, as the numbers (of violations) went down you had a lot of people who weren’t working.”
The program employed seven positions. Film was sent to the camera vendors to be processed but then returned to county personnel to review each photograph and determine if a driver would be cited with a violation. Although those seven positions were eliminated, the employees were relocated to other jobs within the county.
“Out of every 100 times the camera took a picture we were only citing about 50 people because of the amount of protocol we had for the legislation,” Otten said.
There are no known plans to update the cameras across Fairfax County. The decision would be made by the Board of Supervisors. Ultimately, the program was removed due to changes in law and has not been reinstated for fiscal reasons.
“When we had it, it was very successful,” Otten said. “Across the county we had about 45 percent reduction in (violations). Of course, when you have reductions, you’re not making any money.”