Red-light cameras could be coming to six more intersections if the Kent City Council continues to move forward with a plan to reduce collisions and bring in more revenue.
The cameras would bring in an estimated $3.2 million net revenue per year to the city, according to a Nov. 16 report by Kent Police Assistant Chief Eric Hemmen at the council’s Operations/Public Safety Committee meeting.
After the report, the council asked Hemmen to return at a yet-to-be determined date with a bit more information, but agreed more cameras could be a good move.
“It would be interesting to see how much red-light cameras impacted people’s behavior,” Councilmember Satwinder Kaur said at the meeting. “I’d like to know, have we seen any change and drop in revenue and less accidents before we decide on this. It’s a great revenue option, but I want to see how it’s done with people’s behavior.”
Councilmember Bill Boyce also asked for more information.
“I think the new ones based on evidence is OK,” Boyce said after hearing about the numerous collisions at the intersections studied to potentially get cameras. “My concern is about the ones we have. If there’s a decrease, maybe we look into removing those.”
The city installed cameras midway through 2019 at the intersections with the most collisions in response to complaints from residents about drivers running red lights. The council’s goals were to reduce collisions and raise revenue to fund the police department’s new body-worn camera program.
The money has funded that program and also funds other needs for the police department, including new SUVs, which are also funded by the city’s school zone traffic cameras to catch speeding drivers.
Running a red light costs the owner of the vehicle $136. Kent officers review photos and videos to determine whether to issue a ticket.
The cameras at the current six intersections brought in a net revenue of $2.45 million in 2020, according to a July report to the council by Police Chief Rafael Padilla. The city has received $2.34 million in revenue through October 2021, according to an email from City Finance Director Paula Painter.
If estimates are correct, the red-light program at 12 intersections would bring in about $6 million per year to the city.
Padilla said in July the cameras helped reduce the number of collisions from 143 in 2019 to 98 in 2020 at the six intersections, although the chief said less driving during the COVID-19 outbreak might have reduced numbers as well.
The council asked the police department in July to look into adding red-light cameras at more intersections where the most crashes occur.
Hemmen brought back that information and reported that a traffic study showed the cameras would pay for themselves because of the number of red-light violators at the six intersections during the study.
The intersections that could get cameras are:
■ SE 208th Street and 108th Avenue SE
■ SE 240th Street and 116th Avenue SE
■ West Meeker Street and Washington Avenue North
■ Kent Kangley Road and 116th Avenue SE
■ South 228th Street and 68th Avenue South
■ South 212th Street and 68th Avenue South
Kent already has cameras at the intersections of 104th Avenue SE and SE 240th Street; 104th Avenue SE and SE 256th Street; 84th Avenue S. and S. 212th Street; Central Avenue N. and E. James Street; Central Avenue N. and E. Smith Street; and Kent-Des Moines Road and Pacific Highway S.
Hemmen said the traffic program study looked at all 24 approaches at the six new intersections and estimated net revenue per year at $3.2 million. That’s after costs are taken out for cameras and monitoring at each intersection; for police to review the violations on overtime; and court costs that include hiring a full-time employee to process tickets through the Municipal Court system.
Hemmen said at some point the city will need to redo the contract with Mesa, Arizona-based Verra Mobility (formerly American Traffic Solutions), to add cameras at the additional intersections and make it another five-year contract.
“The average month of violations at each approach would cover the cost to have a camera there,” Hemmen said. “Our recommendation is to follow data from the study and place cameras at each intersection.”
Once the council adopts a measure to add cameras at more intersections, it would take about six months for Verra Mobility to install them, Hemmen said.
Councilmember Brenda Fincher asked Hemmen if police know whether the same people keep running red lights.
“Do we get repeaters, like someone who has run red lights five times?” Fincher said.
Hemmen didn’t know.
“We don’t track that on the police side if it’s the same people or not,” he said. “We get the ticket information and send it to the court.”