Critics start petition to ban controversial traffic camera - FOX 32 News Chicago

Critics start petition to ban controversial traffic camera

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Should Chicagoans vote on whether to ban those controversial traffic cameras--the ones that issue tickets for speeding and running through red lights? One group claims it's already collected more than tens of thousands of signatures to put the issue on next year's ballot. It's a direct challenge to one of Mayor Emanuel's budget-balancing strategies.

The mayor is counting on the traffic cameras to collect at least $125 million next year. Some predict the anti-speeding cameras, in particular, will bring in a lot more. A ban would leave a big hole in the city budget, but grassroots critics call the computerized cams unfair and un-American.

Since last week, computerized cameras have been issuing $100 tickets to motorists going at least 11 miles an hour over the speed limit. Such cameras will soon be deployed at 50 locations in Chicago. City Hall expects they'll generate at least $70 million next year, with another $55 million raised by red-light cameras. Turns out, they're also raising a lot of anger. Mark Wallace claims 40,000 have signed petitions to ban the cameras in Chicago.

"Some of the responses that people give when we tell them what we're doing and they see our signs and they see our T-shirts, some I can't repeat on television," Mark Wallace, WVON talk show host and opponent of the cameras, says. "[People are] very angry about it. Some people say they've gotten as many as $600, $700, $800 in tickets."

Mark Wallace and his allies plan to protest Saturday at 5324 S. Cottage Grove at noon, urging the city to ban red light and speeding cameras. It's part of what's become an international backlash against traffic enforcement by the computerized cameras.

In the U.S., a dozen states have banned speeding cameras, as have voters in cities such as Houston. In France, where motorists get $1.1 billion in camera-generated traffic tickets a year, angry voters made it an issue in the last Presidential election. Defenders argued that the cameras made roads safer. Traffic fatalities in France fell from about 8,000 in 2003 to fewer than 3,700 in 2012. Critics in Chicago insist that traffic violations are a relatively minor problem.

"Our children are being mowed down by bullets, not by cars," Wallace says. "So we believe that we need to have more emphasis on public safety about the crime, the high crime that is going on in the neighborhoods as opposed to trying to find ways to raise revenues on the backs of its citizens."

Even if opponents do get the issue on the ballot next year, the outcome would only be advisory. Ultimately, removing the speeding and red light cameras will be up to the mayor and City Council.

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