Aurora City Council seeks more info on how red-light revenues used

This year, Aurora City Council doled out $864,239 in nexus funds among five nonprofits, awarding the most money to nonprofits identified by Aurora police as the most helpful to law enforcement

AURORA | Aurora nonprofits that receive funding through the city’s “nexus” program dodged a legislative bullet this year, but that won’t prevent city lawmakers from taking a closer look at how the money is being spent.

Six nonprofit groups in Aurora receiving money from photo red-light enforcement were relieved after Gov. John Hickenlooper vetoed legislation this year that would have created a statewide ban on the cameras. 

But how that money is doled out is under review by Aurora City Council members. Members of council’s public safety committee are asking Aurora police to provide them with more information about how the money is split.

“I want to make sure the intent of the program is being met, to free up police resources and at the same time, provide critical resources to issues such as homelessness,” said Ward VI Councilwoman Francoise Bergan, a member of the committee.

At-Large Councilwoman Barb Cleland, who chairs the committee, said Aurora police would be coming back to a future committee meeting with a comprehensive survey that has been sent to the nonprofits to detail their work with police.

This year, Aurora City Council doled out $864,239 in nexus funds among five nonprofits, awarding the most money to nonprofits identified by Aurora police as the most helpful to law enforcement.

Mile High Behavioral Health received the most money at $287,729, which was earmarked for a dedicated phone line for law enforcement and APD victim services for placement needs, a 24-hour direct-care office for emergency housing and mental health services, and an emergency and short-term shelter that serves 520 adults and runaway homeless youth.

The Aurora Behavioral Health Care Collaborative received the second-largest sum at $144,450 for a program designed to reduce the number of frequent flyers — those who over-utilize emergency calls and services. The collaborative is made up of Arapahoe House and Aurora Mental Health and includes an interdisciplinary team of treatment providers.

Gateway Battered Women’s Services, Aurora’s only domestic violence service provider, and Arapahoe House, the only detox treatment facility in Aurora, received the third-largest sum at around $119,000. 

Sungate Kids, Aurora Mental Health and the Metro Community Provider Network also received money through the nexus program this year.

The nexus program may still be affected by a special election Aurora City Council agreed to pursue next spring to ask voters whether they want to continue the city’s photo red-light ticketing system.

Aurora Ward IV Councilman Charlie Richardson said he wants to ask Aurora voters whether they want to continue the city’s photo-red light program if all of the money goes to nonprofits that aid Aurora law enforcement.

The photo red-light program brings in approximately $3.3 million annually, according to Aurora police. In 2015, about $1.1 million of photo red-light revenues went to nexus groups.

Bergan said she was also skeptical of having photo red-light closely tied to nexus because of the controversy surrounding the cameras. 

“I think it’s a valuable program and we need to keep it. If we need to fund it through other means, I would be supportive of that,” Bergan said.

She said is also not convinced the photo red-light program reduces accidents — a key claim made in defense of retaining the camera system.

City data from 2010 to 2015 of Aurora’s photo red-light cameras located at 14 busy intersections across show an uptick in fender benders at photo-enforced intersections but a marked decrease in the number of fatal accidents.

Other council members say nexus would survive even a citywide vote asking for a ban.

“I believe photo red-light is a positive system in the city,” said Ward V Councilman Bob Roth. “I honestly believe should something be on a spring election that asks for a ban of photo red-light, I think it would be defeated.”

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