New camera, peak of traffic tickets at Cedar Rapids intersection


CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) – Speeding drivers pay millions of dollars every year under the watchful eye of automated cameras in the sky. Money that ultimately gets to the Cedar Rapids Police Department.

Going back to the days when cameras first issued quotes in early 2010, the four camera banks on Interstate 380, consistently account for 93 percent of tickets issued, sometimes more. An i9 survey found that in parts of 2021 the rate dropped significantly. In June, only 85% of citations were from the I-380. In July, only 87 percent.

A deeper dive revealed a dramatic increase in citations at a highway intersection.

First Avenue East and 10th Street. An intersection between the city’s two hospitals, in what is now called the MedQuarter.

How dramatic?

June 2019: 250 citations

June 2020: 254

June 2021: 1,810

July 2019: 89 citations

July 2020: 47

July 2021: 1706

We first investigated whether the city had lowered the threshold to issue a speeding ticket at that specific intersection.

“All of the thresholds have remained the same,” said Amanda Greider, public safety programs manager with the Cedar Rapids Police Department. We verified this using data provided by the city on the times, dates and speed of violators in June 2019, June 2020 and June 2021. The threshold for issuing a ticket remained at 42 miles per hour, twelve above of the posted speed limit of 30 miles per hour.

Here is the financial difference. Sensys Gatso is the company which supplies and operates the cameras and issues the quotes. Unless the speeding is excessive, a driver is fined $ 75 by mail within days of the violation. The company keeps $ 30 and the city gets the rest.

If every driver fined for speeding at that intersection in July 2021 paid the ticket, the police department would get $ 68,240 in revenue.

In July 2021, out of just 47 citations, the city would raise $ 2,115.

Through repeated surveys of the City of Cedar Rapids, we have finally heard why this intersection is seeing an increase.

“In May 2021, we placed the camera in lane two (of the intersection) on a newer version, which created an increase in citations,” city spokeswoman Maria Johnson wrote, per E-mail. “Lane Two” is the eastbound right lane of 1st Avenue East.

We answered if this “new version” was more efficient in issuing tickets.

“The camera is a newer version, which provides clearer images of license plates, leaving less chance of license plates being unreadable by processors and law enforcement,” Johnson replied by email. Johnson said Sensys Gatso pays for the equipment and that “cameras are updated as new technology is needed.”

KCRG-TV9 requested a video example of the new version, compared to the current cameras at the intersection.

“We don’t have a before and after video example,” Johnson replied. “If the image is not clear, the (information) is never captured and we would never see the image.”

This latest discovery comes just as automated traffic cameras are back to issue banknotes by the hundreds of thousands each year.

For June, July and August 2021, cameras cited more than 59,540 drivers across Cedar Rapids. At $ 45 per ticket to the city, that would net the police department $ 2.68 million for those three months.

From mid-2017 to early 2019, the city ended the issuance of automatic tickets for speeding and red lights due to a dispute over the legality of the cameras.

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