Despite cameras, more injured at Round Rock intersections

A KVUE Defenders investigation uncovered more drivers were injured in crashes at intersections in Round Rock with cameras than before the city installed them.

KVUE reviewed 18 months of crash reports before and after the city installed cameras at seven intersections. City council approved the cameras in 2011 to catch drivers running red lights. Drivers received a $75 fine in the mail, along with a link to view the picture of them running the red light.

According to city records, total crashes at intersections were nearly unchanged, from 205 before to 203 after the cameras.

More drivers were injured after the cameras went up, from 23 to 29 people injured after installation. The city reported one fatal crash in the 18 months after the installations. There were no fatal crashes before.


TOTAL CRASHES

Before Cameras: 205

After Cameras: 203

TOTAL INJURIES

Before Cameras: 23

After Cameras: 29


Despite the increase in injuries, Round Rock communications director Will Hampton argues intersections are safer.

"The number of accidents attributable to red light running is actually down, and the number of injuries attributable to red light running is also down," said Hampton.

He's correct, but not by much. City records show crashes, specifically related to red light running, dropped from six to just three after the cameras were installed.

Allen Logue is a Round Rock resident and a critic of the camera program.

"The truth is, there has been no increase in public safety," said Logue.

Byron Schirmbeck, with Texas Campaign for Liberty, agrees. The organization is pushing to turn red light cameras off around the state.

"So, there's no way anyone in the city can justify that this is a safety program. It's purely a revenue program, clear and simple, and they're making profit at the expense of public safety," said Schirmbeck.

Round Rock's cameras have generated more than $336,000 from 3,100 tickets since 2011.

When the city council approved the red light cameras, it told residents half of the fines would go to local trauma centers. So far, not a dime had made it to an emergency room.

In 2009, state lawmakers decided to shift money generated by red light cameras to the general fund, which totals more than $80 million.

Round Rock Mayor Alan McGraw says it's out of the city's control. He blames state lawmakers.

"We got people down there that want to say, 'Hey, I balanced the budget without raising your taxes one dime.' And, the only reason they can say that is because they're taking fees and fines like this, and they're not spending them on what the citizens paid them to be spent on," said McGraw.

Redflex owns and operates the cameras. It gets paid based on the number of tickets.

Earlier this year, Chicago's mayor kicked Redflex out of its city. In May, federal prosecutors charged a Chicago transportation official with accepting bribes from the company.

Prosecutors claim Redflex provided him cash, a Mercedes and even super bowl tickets in exchange for million dollar red light camera contracts.

"As soon as we found out they were under investigation, we put the whole contract that we inherited out to bid, and they're no longer working there," said Rahm Emanuel, mayor of Chicago.

Allegations are not limited to the windy city. According to a pending lawsuit filed by a former RedFlex employee, the company "bestowed gifts and brides on company officials in dozens of municipalities" in 14 states, including Texas.

The lawsuit doesn't identify Round Rock. Redflex denies the allegations.

According to an internal investigation provided by Redflex, the company fired those involved in the scheme and took action to prevent it from happening in the future.

McGraw says neither he nor city officials were influenced by Redflex.

"I can assure you, no. In fact, I don't even think that Redflex was our initial choice. Our initial choice was another company that decided not to come into Texas," said McGraw.

Logue questions why Round Rock continues to do business with a company under investigation.

"Why are they doing business with an outfit like this? It makes me really uncomfortable," Logue said.

McGraw believes it's too early to determine the success of the camera program. Round Rock is about halfway through a five-year contract with Redflex.


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