Red-light cameras in Puyallup are here to stay for at least another five years, with the potential of more in the future.
The City Council voted to renew a five-year contract with American Traffic Solutions (ATS) to continue the city’s Photo Enforcement Program.
“For us, this is a force extender. It allows us a way to safely enforce red-light camera violations at some of our most challenging intersections in the city,” Police Chief Scott Engle said. “I see this as a way for us as an department to be smarter in how we bring traffic safety to the city of Puyallup.”
The cameras also help in the investigation of collisions by providing video evidence, which police have used 175 times since 2013, said Ryan Portmann, police spokesman.
There are 13 red light cameras in six intersections throughout the city:
▪ Fourth Street Northwest at River Road.
▪ North Meridian at Valley Avenue Northwest.
▪ River Road at North Meridian.
▪ Ninth Street Southwest at state Route 512.
▪ Ninth Street Southwest at 39th Avenue Southwest.
▪ 31st Avenue Southeast at South Meridian.
Police started contracting with ATS in 2013.
That year, 19,039 citations were issued and 89 collisions investigated. In 2017, citations rose to roughly 33,000, with collisions increasing to 98. A review of photo-enforced intersections found only two serious injury collisions out of 98 total collisions in 2017.
Annually, 50 million vehicles travel past the lens of red-light cameras in the city. Vehicles registered to Puyallup drivers account for about 33 percent of all citations given.
City revenue from the program totals about $2.7 million, with about $600,000 going to ATS. The rest goes into the general fund.
Some City Council members were wary of approving the contract and did so only after an amendment that would require police to get council approval to install additional cameras.
“Fundamentally, the question is does it make our streets safer — not whether it makes us money, not whether it’s dedicated for a particular purpose when the money comes to the city, but does it make our roads safer?” Councilman Jim Kastama said.
It's unlikely the department will add cameras immediately, as it would be too much for current traffic enforcers to handle, Portmann said. Citations are not issued automatically and first are reviewed by traffic enforcers.
Councilman Dean Johnson asked for additional data regarding the effectiveness of the cameras in preventing collisions.
“There’s an elephant in the room here and it’s called $2 million, and we need to not ignore that under the cloak of public safety,” he said. “The data here tonight that we heard, it’s the same collision rate.”
Mayor John Palmer pointed out the recidivism rate was at 8 percent since the launch of the contract.
“People are aware of (the cameras), and it affects their behavior,” he said. “I think that’s a good thing.”
The new contract also allows for the city to partner with ATS on a new School Speed Zone Camera Program, which would install cameras in school zones. Police are looking at Stewart, Wildwood and Meeker elementary schools as some of the first schools to potentially have the program.
Photo enforcement in Puyallup