Red-light cameras bringing in millions for local metro city

Balcones Heights police chief says cameras help multiply department's force

By Patty Santos - Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - Red-light cameras are bringing in millions for a metro city.

The Photographic Traffic Signal Enforcement program in Balcones Heights has collected more than $10 million since its inception 10 years ago.

For the 2016-2017 fiscal year, the city reported revenue of more than $1.2 million dollars. Of that amount, roughly $686,500 goes to the vendor to pay for the camera maintenance and video collection. The rest is divided between the city and state, with $165,593 to help support trauma centers.

Balcones Heights Police Chief Darrell Volz said the cameras help the police department multiply its force and it doesn’t cost the city any additional money.  

“This helps us concentrate on other needs the city has,” he said.

Corporal Stanford Smith reviews the violations to ensure they are legitimate. He said he has seen crashes and near misses.

In one day, Smith can review 400 cases, and they can reach into the thousands in a few days if he doesn’t keep up with the volume.

“We're not here to nitpick,” Smith said. “I'll go through videos. We might get a vehicle that just barely crosses the line but it comes to a stop.” Many get a pass, he said.

Volz said data shows 90 percent of drivers who are ticketed do not get a second ticket.

“We don’t care how many citations we give,” Volz said. “It would be great if we didn’t have this program at all because everybody was abiding by the law.”

The program is still paying for itself. If it starts being a burden to taxpayers, Volz said the city will discontinue its use.

Since the program’s inception, only 61 percent of those ticketed have paid the fine.

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