Bremerton approves photo enforcement

Just when it appeared the Bremerton City Council was ready to give a unanimous green light to the city’s proposed red light and school zone photo enforcement program, Big Brother reared his head.

After listening to Council President Will Maupin and Councilman Brad Gehring express how their views on the proposal had changed, Councilman Adam Brockus stated that he simply couldn’t support the program for deeply held philosophical reasons.

“It’s the premise that the government needs a camera and a computer to watch over its citizens,” he said. “By even taking this first step do we send a message to citizens that we don’t trust them to do good, that we need to watch over them at all times?”

The program, which will be implemented through a contract with Redflex Traffic Systems, is costing the city $4,850 a month per camera for the Ohio-based firm to administer it.

The city’s current contract is for eight cameras, which could placed in eight different locations, four locations with two cameras or a combination of those, Bremerton Police Department Lt. Pete Fisher said.

“Photo enforcement will allow us to perform enforcement in places where it is difficult to place an officer,” Fisher said, noting that some intersections such as the Sylvan Way/Wheaton Way intersection are notorious for red-light runners, but there is no safe way for officers to adequately cover that area.

While drivers will be cited for speeding or traffic signal violations, the tickets won’t appear on their driving record and the cost for those can only be a much as the city’s highest parking ticket, which is $250 for parking in a handicapped space, Fisher said.

Red-light violators could receive a $124 ticket in the mail, and speeders will be fined $189. There will be a 30-day grace period once the program begins.

Although those citations could be challenged in Bremerton Municipal Court, Redflex will provide a six-second video to document the infraction, Fisher said.

That explanation along with the previous discussions about the proposal were enough to satisfy both Maupin and Gehring.

“The bottom line is this increase our safety,” Gehring said. “I was initially opposed to the idea, but you really answered all my questions.”

The idea of having cameras watching the city’s motorists isn’t appealing, but because of the large number of red-light runners and change in driving habits, something had to be done, Gehring said.

Maupin, too, said he initially was opposed to the idea of Big Brother keeping an eye on motorists, but the potential benefits from the program outweighed the drawbacks.

“It not only gets people who are committing a traffic violation,” Maupin said. “It allows the officer to be somewhere else.”

However, at the end of the debate, Brockus still found a way to get the last word.

“I hope Bremerton doesn’t make any money for you,” Brockus told a Redflex representative in attendance. “I hope the good people of Bremerton will drive safe.”

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