AURORA | Aurora’s city coffers see more than $1 million a year from photo red light and photo radar tickets. But with controversy surrounding the cameras, Aurora City Council members remain cautious about expanding their use.
“You’ve got the uncertainty with the state Legislature and the dichotomy among elected officials as to whether they’re good or bad,” said Aurora City Councilman Bob LeGare, a member of the city’s Public Safety Committee. “Once it’s resolved in the Legislature, someone might want to bring up the topic.”
For the past three years, Colorado lawmakers have attempted to ban the cameras statewide.
State lawmakers have so far not come out against banning the cameras in 2015.
“I have no plans at the moment to run another bill on red light cameras,” said Lucia Guzman, D-Denver, who sponsored last year’s bill to ban them.
City Council members of Aurora’s Public Safety Committee agreed that if a bill comes up next year, a program known as “Nexus” that relies on nearly $500,000 from photo red light and photo radar fines, could be vulnerable.
After two years of adding money to the city’s Nexus program, which supports nonprofits that provide a substantial service to law enforcement, Council members of the Public Safety Committee agreed to dole out $824,000 among six nonprofit agencies and one pilot program for 2015. That amount, which still needs to be approved by all of City Council, is the same as what was approved for 2014.
Art Schut, president and CEO of Arapahoe House, the only detox treatment facility in Aurora, said his organization could not operate without the $119,000 it sees from Nexus.
According to city documents, nearly 40 percent of Arapahoe House’s clients are brought in by Aurora Police. The city’s police even have a special room in the building where they can process paperwork for intoxicated individuals onsite.
Aurora City Manager Skip Noe said if the Legislature were to ban cameras next year, Aurora has $700,00 reserved to sustain Nexus nonprofits through 2016.
Aurora Councilwoman Marsha Berzins, whose ward encompasses 10 of the 14 intersections where photo radar cameras are located, said she doesn’t believe the cameras make her residents feel safer, and that they are being kept because they generate money for the city. “We funded our (Nexus) programs before we had red light cameras, and we can always find the money to fund those programs should the cameras go away,” she said.
Aurora Police contend the cameras are not just cash cows.
According to city documents, crashes at intersections with the cameras decreased by 26 percent from 2010 to 2012. That data also showed that out of 141 recorded crashes, injuries had decreased by 33 percent at the intersections where the cameras are located.
Earlier in October, City Council voted to renew a two-year contract with Xerox, the company which administers the photo red light system, once the current contract expires next June.