City says red light cameras also help solve disputes

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SARASOTA - Red light cameras remain unpopular with many drivers, who say they exist only to generate revenue. But Sarasota Police say video from one camera shows their other benefits.

Many people see them as the despised eyes in the sky; the cameras that catch red light runners mean green for municipalities that use them. In the City of Sarasota's budget, they appear as a "major source of income."

The city started using the cameras in January of 2012, and now has twenty of them. “To us, it's about safety. And we think it's going to keep our community safer and reduce the number of serious collisions,” says Chief Bernadette DiPino.

On May 28th, a red light camera on Fruitville Road caught a pickup truck blowing through a red light and smashing into a car making a left turn. The pickup driver blamed the turning car for the crash.

“And we were able to pull the video back up, and it clearly showed the driver of the one vehicle ran the red light and hit the other vehicle and, thus, was at fault,” says Chief DiPino.

Without the video, she says, police could never have proven which vehicle caused the crash. She says that whatever money the cameras bring the city is secondary to their primary goal: making people respect red lights. “In red light camera studies that have been done nationwide, they have shown that it has reduced serious crashes, especially deadly crashes or ones where serious injuries have occurred.”

And drivers might have gotten the message. Last year, in the city, cameras caught just over 4,000 red light runners. So far this year -- even with 9 more cameras added in March -- just over 1,400 have been caught.

But Chief DiPino knows that legal attacks on the cameras will continue -- but says they do the job.