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Speed cameras aid Toledo coffers

Newest devices catch 7,929 offenders; July fines about $1.7M

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    A speed-monitoring camera is installed on the Anthony Wayne Trail in the straightaway between South Avenue and the Toledo Zoo. Activation next week is possible.

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A speed-monitoring camera is installed on the Anthony Wayne Trail in the straightaway between South Avenue and the Toledo Zoo. Activation next week is possible.

the blade/dave zapotosky
Enlarge | Buy This Image

Toledo's newest crop of speed-enforcement cameras is producing big bucks for city coffers and flashing a costly message to speeding drivers.

Eight new cameras approved by Toledo City Council in June resulted in bills for 7,929 people during the month of July.

An additional 892 were billed for running red lights at those eight cameras.

That number together -- 8,821 tickets -- makes up the majority of the 14,061 total red light and speed tickets issued across the entire city in July.

"They were a little higher than we thought they were going to be for July," Sgt. Joe Heffernan, a Toledo police spokesman, said of the fines sparked by the new cameras.

"When you put new cameras in, you're going to get a spike because people aren't used to having them there."

Each alleged infraction results in a mailing that assesses the motorist a penalty of $120. That would work out to nearly $1.7 million if all 14,061 fines were paid.

The spike in speeding charges occurs as the city gets ready to finalize speed cameras on one of the city's most heavily traveled thoroughfares, the Anthony Wayne Trail.

Those cameras, set in the straightaway between South Avenue and the entrance to the Toledo Zoo, are to be activated possibly next week, Sergeant Heffernan said.

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The speed limit on that stretch is 50 mph.

The city is drawing motorists' attention to their speed on the Trail with a temporary installation that notifies drivers of how fast they're going.

Toledo City Council approved 11 new camera locations in June in addition to the 33 previous locations.

Not all of the 33 locations detected speeding.

In all, for the first seven months of 2012, 17,771 drivers were ticketed for speeding, and 11,752 were ticketed for running red lights.

The new camera location with the most speeding hits in July was eastbound Dorr Street at Collingwood Boulevard, with 2,477. The westbound camera caught 1,709 speeders.

The location with the second-highest number was westbound Alexis Road at Whitmer Drive with 2,348. It registered 252 speeding in the opposite direction.

Winning the bronze medal for the month of July was the intersection of Cherry Street and Delaware Avenue, near Central Catholic High School, generating 2,206 speeding tickets northbound and 725 southbound.

Cameras installed on Reynolds Road at Bancroft Street generated 777 tickets northbound and 35 southbound.

Cameras were also installed on Secor Road at Alexis Road, but no speeding infractions were reported for the month.

Before the new cameras were installed, the location catching the most speeding drivers was northbound Douglas Road at University Hills Boulevard, with 2,410 motorists ticketed for speeding between Jan. 1 and June 30.

Sergeant Heffernan said the cameras allow a "reasonable" cushion over the speed limit before the flash camera is triggered.

He defended the reliance on the automated traffic control, citing the decline in police manpower to 574 officers now from more than 700 15 years ago.

"I think speeding's a problem in the city. People that regularly drive in the city notice that. A lot of times people are driving way too fast. These speed cameras are a nice tool for us to slow people down in areas where they need to be slowed down," Sergeant Heffernan said.

"Obviously our priority is answering 911 calls, protecting life and property first. New technology has helped us maintain traffic enforcement without having to put the bodies on the street," he said.

Penalties charged by Redflex Traffic Systems, the company that operates the cameras under a contract with Toledo, are not recorded as criminal fines in Toledo Municipal Court and do not become part of a driver's motor vehicle record, Sergeant Heffernan said.

He said Redflex turns unpaid fines over to a collection agency, and multiple unpaid fines can result in someone's car being towed.

The first agreement between the city and Redflex Traffic Systems was in 2000. The city gets 75 percent and the Phoenix company gets 25 percent of each fine.

Contact Tom Troy at: tomtroy@theblade.com or 419-724-6058.

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