Red light cameras possibly returning to Columbia

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COLUMBIA - Columbia Deputy City Manager Tony St. Romaine is looking to re-install red light cameras in Columbia.

"There's a question on whether the community feels and the council feels there's value from a public safety perspective in use at the intersections. We certainly think there was," St. Romaine said.

The city used red light cameras in four intersections from 2009-2013 but removed them in 2014 after several Missouri cities were taken to court for their enforcement of the traffic violations.

Columbia contracted with the firm Gatso USA Inc. until the end of 2013. At the beginning of the contract, Columbia used a facial recognition camera in order to prosecute the driver rather than the owner of the vehicle. For two months, the city ticketed car owners instead.

The city then stopped the program in 2014 pending a decision of the Missouri Supreme Court, according to St. Romaine.

The Missouri Supreme Court ruled earlier this year the driver must be held responsible instead of the owner of the vehicle. The state removed cameras in those cities because they were issuing tickets to the owner of the car and not the driver.

Columbia Police Department's Public Information Officer Bryana Larimer said enforcing red light violations is really hard for the traffic unit.

"The idea becomes are you going to create more of a hazard to try and go after the individual who just violated the red light. Again that's a decision you have to make in a split second, and you have to be sure of," Larimer said.

St. Romaine said the city council will look at going back to the original red light camera program. Council members will review the findings of the most recent Missouri Supreme Court decision and question if there is value from the public safety perspective.

Columbia driver Colleen Eddy said she supports installing red light cameras only if the data actually shows a decrease in traffic accidents.

"If they were to come back, I'd want there to be research to support that they were effective in reducing speeding and reducing accidents at red lights," Eddy said.

St. Romaine said he asked CPD to look at accident data during the time the cameras were in place.

The cameras were located at the intersections of Broadway and Providence, Stadium and Worley, Stadium and Providence and Forum and Stadium.

The city issued more than 5000 tickets from 2010-2013, according to information from the city manager's office.

City staff will present information to the Columbia City Council in October where they'll decide whether to re-install the cameras.