San Leandro questions whether its red-light camera contract is a good deal

In the run up to the San Leandro City Council’s decision Monday night to renew a 14-year-old contract for red-light camera services, a few elected officials were alerted to the website HighwayRobbery.net.

The no-frills site created by an activist who opposes red-light cameras, is a treasure-trove of data covering the entire state, in addition, to helpful tips for navigating the process of challenging traffic tickets.

The deal offered this week by RedFlex, the red-light camera vendor used by the city since 2005, isn’t so good, they found, according to the site. At least, in comparison to other California municipalities.

The notion that San Leandro taxpayers might be fleeced by the company, clearly weighed on the mind of some councilmembers Monday night. Although the City Council directed staff to trigger a two-year option to extend the contract with RedFlex, the relationship with the vendor appears in doubt.

San Leandro’s contract is basically the same that it agreed to in 2011: Six red-light cameras at five locations costing $5,200 each month.

San Leandro Police Chief Jeff Tudor told the council that his department had not sought out new technology or other vendors.

“We’re talking about 14-year-old technology,” Councilmember Benny Lee said, asserting new technologies likely exists since the RedFlex cameras were installed eight years ago. “I think we’ve had this contract way too long.”

During the same time, Oakland and Hayward discontinued its contract with RedFlex.

A vast majority of the violations are for illegal right-hand turns and most tickets are issued to non-San Leandro residents, according to city staff.

Red-light cameras in San Leandro produced almost 10,000 tickets last year, generating roughly $5 million in fees. However, the city receives just 9 percent of the revenue. Nevertheless, San Leandro reaps $188,000 in extra revenue each year.

“We think about safety,” said Councilmember Corina Lopez, “others are thinking about profit and quite a bit of profit.” She also questioned the cost of tickets and whether it’s truly practical for working people to have the time to appeal them.

When the RedFlex contract was up for renewal in 2011, San Leandro Mayor Pauline Russo Cutter, then a councilmember, voted against the extension.

Cutter said the extra two years of the contract extension will give the city time to evaluate alternatives to RedFlex, including the possibility of buying and maintaining its own red-light camera equipment. “We would own the technology and could do more things with it,” said Cutter.

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