HOUSTON The Houston Police Department says there s been a dramatic increase in drivers running red lights after voters put the brakes on red-light cameras in November.
The numbers were released Tuesday to 11 News following the first full month HPD has not used the cameras to issue citations.
The cameras are still on while a contract dispute with the cameras manufacturer, American Traffic Solutions, plays out in federal court. However, no one s receiving any tickets as a result of the cameras video.
HPD is still monitoring a few of the intersections to analyze how many drivers are running the lights. To deter driver, HPD has placed decoy police cruisers at several locations.
When the voters voted (the cameras) out, they took that tool away from us, said Asst. Chief Vicki King. And it has resulted in our intersections becoming more dangerous than ever before.
One of the busiest intersections has been the Southwest Freeway at Beechnut. In January of 2010, that camera snapped pictures of more than 2,770 potential red-light runners.
They were potential because not all of those pictures resulted in citations upon further review, HPD said.
But compare that to January 2011 -- the first full month with the cameras and the number of pictures snapped jumped to 3,811.
That s a 38 percent rise.
Another busy intersection was Beechnut at South Gessner. The number of pictures there jumped by 52 percent.
That surprised even us, King said.
HPD also said that during one week in January, officers issued just 145 tickets. That s significantly less than the 667 average daily citations when the cameras were active.
Paul Kubosh, the attorney and outspoken critic who was behind the campaign to put the cameras on the November ballot, said the reason for the drop in tickets was that Mayor Annise Parker had cut back on officers overtime.
The reason why police officers are writing fewer tickets is because they're in revolt. Kubosh said.
He also blasted HPD s assertion that the intersections were more dangerous.
I do not believe the statistics, he said. I think they're lying.
Kubosh repeated his previous claim that the city attorney was purposefully losing the federal court case against ATS because the mayor s administration wanted the cameras back in service.
What we have here is a careful, orchestrated plan to try to convince the public that the cameras need to come back because the fix is in, Kubosh said Tuesday.
The Parker administration has strongly denied that it is conspiring with ATS.
The voters spoke on this issue and we respect that, Asst. Chief King said. But we need for the public to be informed. We want them to know what a valuable tool they have taken away from us.
Also on Tuesday, a separate national study released by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety seemed to back up claims that red-light cameras made streets safer. The study concluded that the cameras have reduced the rate of deadly crashes by 24 percent in 14 large cities that introduced them between 1996 and 2004.
ATS praised those numbers as well as HPD s statistics released Tuesday.
That finding is consistent with what we've seen since the cameras stopped issuing violations, ATS spokesman Charles Territo said in an e-mail. As the IIHS study shows, cameras save lives and change driver behavior.
Kubosh ripped the national study, saying it was funded by insurance companies who want to better track red-light offenses so they can raise insurance premiums.