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Speed Cameras Could Scope Half of the City

By Chris Bentley in News on Oct 26, 2011 6:40PM

Image Credit: -Tripp-
Mayor Rahm Emanuel is a fan of cameras, and a measure he has championed in Springfield would bring nearly half the city under the watch of speed cameras designed to catch fast drivers.

There are two versions of the bill before the State Legislature, and both would make at least 47 percent of the city eligible for speed camera surveillance, according to a Chicago Tribune analysis. The Trib’s numbers mesh with similar estimates cited by the Emanuel administration.

The plan appears to have Springfield’s support:

The powerful House and Senate leaders [House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton] appear to be working in step with Emanuel on the issue, meaning their different versions of the legislation are growing ever more similar.

Chicago’s network of at least 10,000 cameras installed at traffic lights, city schools and high-crime neighborhoods are integrated with private cameras through the city’s emergency system — an advance that makes the city the most watched U.S. city and alarms civil liberties groups.

While the jury is still out on whether blue light cameras effectively deter crime, the city’s red light cameras have been a financial boon, netting $58 million in fines in 2009.

That’s good news for Arizona-based Redflex Traffic Systems Inc., which has brought in more than $76 million as Chicago’s exclusive camera vendor since 2003. No decision has been made on who will provide the city with the new speed cameras should they be approved. But aides to Emanuel told the Tribune the city’s current red-light cameras can be easily upgraded to catch speeders.

The bills up for debate this week renew skepticism of the red light camera program’s pretense of public safety. The program has drawn the ire of both city residents and those in the suburbs, where cameras have cropped up despite sizable pushback from voters.