Red light camera revenue is up this year in Winter Park – and it may be because tickets are harder to fight than they used to be.
Winter Park Finance Director Wes Hamil told the Winter Park City Commission on Monday that the city saw an increase of $227,403 in red-light camera revenue from last year, hitting a total of $975,694 for fiscal year 2016.
That’s the second highest total in the city’s history since the red light camera program was first established in 2011. Fiscal year 2013 saw the highest, with $1.1 million worth of violations.
“We haven’t raised the cost of violations, so if we’re getting more revenue, there must be more violations,” Lt. Pam Marcum of the Winter Park Police Department told the Observer.
“We want the money to go down,” Commissioner Greg Seidel said during Monday’s meeting.
“We expect those people to learn their lesson and not do it next year.”
But City Manager Randy Knight reasoned that the real reason for the increase may not be the number of violations, but the number of tickets that are actually being paid. The state’s transition to a local hearing officer format forces red light violators appealing a ticket to present thorough evidence that they’re innocent, Knight said.
In previous years, violators could simply bring a lawyer and a judge would swiftly throw out the case, he added.
“We used to have judges throwing them out left and right and then the state clarified the law and required the city to go to a hearing officer format, so far more actually have to pay the ticket that get a ticket,” Knight said.
Winter Park is no stranger to controversy over red-light cameras. The city was forced to refund hundreds of residents for red-light camera citations due to noncompliance with a Florida Department of Transportation mandate back in January 2014. The city failed to extend yellow lights at intersections with red-light cameras by 0.4 seconds by Dec. 31, 2013.
Four of the city’s six intersections with red-light cameras were not in compliance. The yellow lights were corrected as of Feb. 7, but more than 550 motorists had been fined since Jan. 1, said Clarissa Howard, the city’s director of communications.
The city has also continued to fight anti-camera legislation in Tallahassee. In February 2014, the city passed a resolution opposing a state bill that would have modified the state’s current red-light camera program, potentially banning new cameras starting July 1, 2014 and cutting the cost of a red-light camera violation nearly in half, dropping it from the current $158 to $83. That state bill would eventually fail.