Red Light Camera Debate Heats Up in Santa Ana

Santa Ana police say the red light cameras help educate people about the dangers of red-light running. Critics say the system's rigged to fill city coffers

The intersection of Pullman Street and East Dyer Road is one of 15 monitored by red light cameras in Santa Ana.

Last June, Cynthia Renee was photographed as a red light runner and cited and fined $544 dollars.

"I figured if I'm upset about it I can imagine the hundreds and thousands of other people who have received other tickets," Renee said.

Renee challenged the citation in court.

"I had heard that a lot of yellow lights are shortened just for revenue," she said.

At Pullman and Dyer, driving 40 mph, the minimum standard for a signal light to appear yellow, is 3.9 seconds.

"So for that intersection it's 4 seconds," Anthony Bertagna, a Santa Ana Police Department spokesman, said.

But Renee said she taped it five times and it came out between 3.6 and 3.8.

NBC4 recorded the yellow signal and each time it was exactly 4 seconds, legal but still unfair, critics say.

"You're either going too fast to stop before the intersection or too slow to make it into the intersection before the light turns red," said Allen Baylis, a defense attorney who has been defending clients against red light camera citations since 2005. "They've set the intersections up in order to maximize red light runs by using a yellow time that is at or near the minimum."

Bertagna said it's not about the money.

"It's about education. It's about keeping people safe."

Santa Ana police say red light running collisions declined by 54 percent between 2005 and 2009, while ticket revenues are increasing. The city netted more than $1.6 million for fiscal year 2012-2013.

The Santa Ana City Council voted to remove red light cameras citywide next summer.

Renee says removing the cameras means no more snapshots of time, that citations will be based on an officer witnessing the reasonable or unreasonable decisions of drivers.

"Everybody should be treated fairly," she said.

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