Figures released by the Police Department show the cameras, which started producing automated tickets March 14, generated $135,734 by the end of May. Of that total, $52,530 has been paid to Gatso USA, the camera vendor.
It averages out to about $1,066 each day to the city coffers.
“Either we’re going to save a lot of lives, or we’re going to make a fortune,” Police Chief Greg Graham said. “I’m hoping we’re going to save a lot of lives and people are going to slow down.”
No taxpayer money was used to pay for installation of the cameras, and money paid to Gatso is strictly from the citations, Graham said.
Revenue generated by the automated enforcement system is funneled to the Police Department’s operating budget through the city’s general fund, said Casey Drew, the city’s finance director. It won’t fund street repairs or a new park, for example.
“We’re not collecting this money to spend it on certain (non-police) things,” Drew said. “This goes toward the Police Department’s operations.”
The cameras currently monitor six intersections: First Avenue at 10th Street SE and L Street SW, Second Avenue at 10thStreet SE, Third Street SW and Sixth Street SW, and at Edgewood Road and 42nd Street NE.
Automated tickets will be issued to northbound Interstate 380 motorists starting Saturday if they speed by cameras at the Diagonal Drive SW interchange.
Police have also parked a vehicle equipped with a mobile speed camera to automatically nab violators, primarily along I-380 and in school zones.
Other cameras will be installed this summer at Center Point Road and Collins Road, and Williams Boulevard and 16th Avenue SW. Southbound I-380 traffic will be monitored for speed by St. Luke’s Hospital eventually, Graham said.
Graham said it appears the cameras that are rolling have started to reduce crashes. Citywide, he said motor-vehicle accidents declined about 12 percent, and injury crashes were down 14 percent in the first four months of this year, compared to last year.
The first cameras weren’t installed until mid-February and didn’t start issuing tickets until a month later, but Graham said the automated enforcement is the only change between 2009 and 2010.
He called the drop, about 150 accidents, “pretty significant.”
“The pattern we’re on now, it certainly appears that they’re working,” Graham said. “And not all the cameras are up.”
Graham said the automated enforcement does not discriminate.
“We’ve had police officers get them off duty, other city employees, media people, county employees and elected officials,” Graham said. “Nobody’s immune from these things.”
Before the installation, officials estimated the cameras would bring in about $750,000 annually. Critics of the cameras say it is only a ploy to generate revenue, but Graham has never wavered from his stance that he cares only about safety.
In fact, Graham said it appears I-380 motorists have started to change their behavior. About four weeks ago, before the I-380 cameras were publicized, they were catching about 400 speeders each day. This week, the number was closer to 100, Graham said.
“Beat me up all you want on these cameras,” Graham said. “If we’re slowing people down, preventing crashes and saving lives, have at it.”