Arlington

Arlington’s red-light camera opponents say they can force election

Star-Telegram

Red-light camera opponents say they have collected enough signatures on a petition to force an election in May to let Arlington voters decide whether to pull the plug on the program.

A leader of Citizens for a Better Tomorrow, which wants the city charter amended to ban traffic enforcement cameras, said more than 10,500 signatures had been collected as of Tuesday.

The petitions have not been presented to the city secretary’s office, which will certify whether the group collected at least 9,651 valid signatures, equaling 5 percent of the city’s registered voters.

If the petition is certified, the City Council would be expected to vote by Feb. 24 to place the referendum on the May ballot, Assistant City Attorney David Barber said.

The camera opponents say they believe the cameras have resulted in more rear-end collisions at monitored intersections and are nothing more than a cash cow for the city.

“People who think these cameras are in place for our safety need to get a clue,” petition organizer Kelly Canon said.

The council approved installation of red-light cameras in 2007. The city is under a 20-year contract with American Traffic Solution to operate the system, which now has cameras at 19 intersections.

Arlington police officials say the cameras, which record about 95,000 violations a year, have reduced collisions at monitored intersections by as much as 75 percent.

Canon, vice president of the Arlington Tea Party, said one problem with the cameras is they can’t document who was driving the vehicle.

“We are supposed to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. These citations flip that around,” Canon said. “If I get a citation because I broke the law, I want that citation to be given to me by the officer who saw me break the law.”

Half of the $75 fine goes to the state. The other half, after expenses, helps support the Arlington Police Department’s DWI Unit and pays for 12 patrol officers, officials have said. Overall, the cameras have generated more than $12 million for the city.

However, unpaid tickets do not show up on the driver’s credit report and do not prevent drivers from obtaining a vehicle registration in Tarrant County.

“People don’t know any better. They think if they don’t pay, they will be arrested or they can’t get their vehicle registration renewed. That’s a myth,” Canon said. “People need to wake up and know what their rights are. They need to know our city officials are deceiving us for our money.”

Red-light camera opponents are making a final push this week to collect even more signatures during business hours at the Tarrant County Subcourthouse, 700 E. Abram St. The group plans to present the signatures to the city for verification on Jan. 20, Canon said.

Voters in other Texas cities, including Houston, Conroe and College Station, have defeated red-light cameras at the polls.

Arlington’s contract with American Traffic Solution expires in July 2027 but includes provisions that would let the city terminate the agreement without penalty with 90 days’ notice, Assistant City Attorney David Johnson said. That notice of termination could be shorter depending on the circumstances, Johnson said.

This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

Susan Schrock, 817-390-7639

Twitter: @susanschrock

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