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CBS 6 Investigates: Albany's red light cameras

CBS 6 Investigates red light cameras.png

It's been about a year and a half now that the City of Albany has seen the finished product of the red light camera project - 35 cameras sit at intersections spread across the city. Just how well are they working? And are they providing the city with everything it had expected?

"We're always going to have work to do, but we've seen drops at most of the intersections."

Albany police public information officer Steve Smith says the city has seen less red light running, and in effect, fewer crashes.

Statistics provided by the Albany Police Department show at the intersections where the cameras are installed, the total number of crashes decreased from 244 in 2013 - to 176 in 2016. The intersection of Lark, Delaware and Madison shows 29 crashes in 2013 - down to 17 in 2016.

An average of 957 red-light-running tickets were handed out per month in 2016.

"They've actually helped us out because we can dedicate our traffic safety officers to other areas fo the city."

But who pays the price?

We spoke with City Treasurer Darius Shahinfar. He says the city chose a contract with a company called Gatso because of how it would be paid for.

"Under the contract, the city essentially rents the red light cameras for about $130,000 a month, but it rents it with payment from the revenue on the red light camera tickets."

The contract says the total cost of the project is about $4,000 dollars per camera per month. Money coming in each month from tickets - acts as payment.

"In any month where ticket revenue collected does not exceed the total cost of the cameras, Gatso agrees to accept the amount of revenue collected as full payment for that month."

Right now, Albany only sees up to $75,000 a month from red light tickets - it would only profit with monthly intake of more than $130,000.

Today, Mayor Kathy Sheehan insists the red light cameras have been a success - despite their inability to fill a projected two million dollar line in the city budget, with number of tickets given out being less than expected.

"We had to create a revenue line for anticipated revenue, it was based on the projections that were provided to me by the police department, when I looked at that number when we were building that budget, I looked at it with skepticism."

Since installed, shahinfar says the cameras have brought in about $800,000 - all of which has gone back to Gatso.

"I don't ever want our city to be so dependent on punishing people that we have to continue to do it in order to be able to pay for essential city services."

Contract re-negotiations are expected this spring. The mayor says the red light cameras will likely get the green light once again.

"This didn't cost our residents any money, and our intersections are safer, so to me that's the definition of success."

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