In September of 2011, the city of St. Petersburg installed ten cameras at intersections in hopes of reducing accidents in the city. A year later in October 2012, the City Council of St. Petersburg was provided with a report compiled by city staffers that focused on the benefit of red light cameras and the money they generate, how many tickets have been issued, their safety benefits, and how drivers’ behaviors are changing for the better.
The purpose of the report is to determine if the cameras are, in fact, reducing accidents and to determine if an additional nine cameras should be installed throughout the city. However, one key fact was left out of the 122-page report.
Although the report showed that the ten cameras the city currently has caught over 36,000 red light violators during the same time period that police issued 1,025 tickets, the report failed to mention that St. Petersburg crashes have increased ten percent at the intersections with these red light cameras.
While the report touted the camera’s safety benefits, the accidents in these ten intersections with cameras increased from 298 to 328 between November 2011 and October 2012—during the program’s first year.
Now council members are wondering if the mayor and staffers were trying to sway their vote to increase the number of cameras by not including the overall crash numbers and they are asking city staffers to be consistent in their reporting. However, staffers were told to look at the performance of cameras, not intersections, and have stated that they weren’t trying to hide anything.
One clear theme in the report was that the majority of red light runners occurred at 34th Street and 38th Avenue N, followed by 34th Street and First Avenue S.