Should Dallas continue using red-light cameras?

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UPDATE: City Council approved this contract Wednesday.

It could become harder to get out of a red-light ticket come May.

Dallas City Council this week will consider entering a new 10-year, $17.8-million contract for its red-light cameras.

The cost generally is null because it’s offset by fines collected. But whether the cameras actually reduce accidents is up for debate. And the proposed new punishment for neglecting red-light tickets could set up the city’s working poor with ever amassing citations and fines.

Until recently, failing to pay the $75 ticket meant the city would report the violator to credit bureaus. They had the choice of paying the fine, taking hours out of their work week to fight it in court or taking a ding on their credit.

But credit agencies TransUnion, Experian and Equifax stopped reporting Dallas’ red-light tickets on June 1, 2016. As a remedy for the one-third of red-light camera tickets that go unpaid in Dallas, the city now is considering reporting unpaid red-light tickets to Dallas County, which could put a hold on vehicle registration. That means that someone who has to choose between paying a red-light ticket and say, their electricity bill, could then begin amassing tickets for expired registration. An unpaid registration ticket can lead to an arrest warrant and snowball from there.

Besides that, the presence of red-light cameras doesn’t reduce the number of red-light violations over time. And the evidence that they reduce accidents is scant at best.

Some consider red-light cameras a moneymaking scam for private companies because cities generally make no profit while charging drivers millions of dollars. City Councilman Philip Kingston said during a Public Safety Committee meeting Monday that the cameras also are very unpopular and are rejected overwhelmingly anytime they’ve been put up for referendum in other cities.


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