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Red light photo program yielding fewer violations in Auburn

Violations at red light photo enforced intersections and school zones continue to drop, according to the Auburn Police Department's latest report card on the program, "Photosafe Auburn, First Quarter Report, Jan.-March 2008-2012.

"The numbers are down," Assistant Police Chief Bob Karnofski told Monday's meeting of the City's Municipal Services Committee.

The City spends about $180,000 every year to Arizona-based vendor RedFlex Traffic Systems to keep it going and is now spending more money than it's taking in.

Money well spent, said Auburn City Councilwoman Largo Wales.

"I don't have a problem spending $180,000 on safety, and I have never had a problem with them being by the schools. I believe in them. My objection has always been just the photo enforcement signs that are at the other locations where we do not have photo enforcement," Wales said.

The City launched the program on June 30, 2006 at two intersections: Auburn Way South and 4th Street Southeast; and Auburn Way South and M Street Southeast. It added Harvey Road and 8th Street in December of that year.

Today the program also numbers school zone safety cameras for Mt. Baker Middle School and in the school safety zones of Chinook, Dick Scobee, Lea Hill and Arthur Jacobsen elementaries.

The data show that over the first quarters of the years 2008-2012, the percentage of red-light violations, that is, the total number written by officers as opposed to actual infractions issued, dropped as follows:

• Auburn Way South and 4th, southbound, down 50.3 percent; northbound, down 36.2 percent

• M Street and Auburn Way South, westbound, down 45 percent; northbound, down 88.4 percent

• 8th and Harvey: down 67 percent

• Total: down 47.7 percent

The total number of first quarter infractions actually issued has decreased 61 percent since 2008. Officers who review the video clips supplied by RedFlex may decide not to issue infractions based on a number of reasons, including unreadable or obstructed plates, emergency vehicles, inclement weather and the officer's own discretion.

The first-quarter data for school zone speed enforcement is as follows:

• Dick Scobee, down 51.6 percent

• Chinook, down 72 percent

• Mt. Baker, down 75.9 percent

For the years 2010 and 2012, the only years for which school zone data for the newest cameras is available, the numbers are as follows: Lea Hill Elementary, down 56.1 percent; and Arthur Jacobsen Elementary, down 82.3 percent.

City officials say the primary goal is to improve traffic safety through reduction of red-light violations and associated collisions and to reduce speeding in designated school zones.

City officials have taken revenue from the program left over after all expenses are paid and dedicated it to other areas of the city under the umbrella of traffic calming. Cameras cannot be placed at every intersection and stretch of road.

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