Nearly 700 traffic violation “warnings” have been caught on camera at three Gulfport intersections within the past 30 days. The intersection safety cameras are placed at the following intersections:
- West Bound on Gulfport Blvd. S. & 58th St S.
- South Bound on 49th St. & 15th Ave S.
- East Bound on Gulfport Blvd. S. & 49th St. S.
Each intersection with a camera has a sign warning the drivers of the cameras presence.
Sgt. Michael Vandenberg says the camera at Gulfport Blvd S. & 58th St. S. has caught more violations than the other two combined. The goal of the cameras is to improve safety and decrease traffic and other violations. “It can only help, “ Vandenberg said.
The system is a two-part process. The camera knows when to snap a photo based on the speed of a vehicle as it approaches the intersection. Wireless video detectors placed under the road read how fast a vehicle is going and it sends that response to the camera. That’s when the camera snaps two photos, clearly showing the license plate of the vehicle. The information is then downloaded and sent to American Traffic Solutions, a company in Arizona. Employees there compile the information and email it to the Gulfport Police Department.
That’s where Officer A.J. Falconeri comes in. Falconeri has been with the department for 24 years, which means before the cameras were in place, issuing a citation meant conducting a traffic stop, filling out the appropriate information and sending the driver on his or her way. Now, with a few clicks of the mouse, Falconeri can “catch” the violators faster and from the comforts of the department. Currently Officer Falconeri and Officer Robert McLaughlin are the only two officers reviewing the red light camera photos.
“I’m still in shock at how these people drive,” Falconeri said while reviewing the latest batch of photos. Falconeri says one camera caught a driver going 78 mph in a 35 mph zone. While the person is just receiving a warning for that, if he or she does it again, it’s a $158 fine. Falconeri says if that driver were caught in person they would receive even more tickets. “It would have been a reckless driving situation. To just imagine the impact of what would happen if there was an accident. If someone walked away from it, it would be a miracle.”
Technology can also aid in those scenarios as well. The cameras not only take photos, but record video clips as well. Sgt. Michael Vandenberg says, “It’s also got other benefits. If we do happen to have a bad accident, we have the ability to call the company . . . and they send us the video file.”
Video and photos are saved for 30 days automatically. Once a piece of media is attached to a violation, it’s then saved for five years. All other photos and videos that are rejected are erased.
The purpose of the 30-day warning period was to do just that. Officials want people to know the safety cameras are present. “I think the light definitely discourages them from running it. If anything, it’s getting people to be aware of it,“ Vandenberg said. So far, most of the photos that have come in during the warning period have been right. “90% are gonna be a violation,” Falconeri said.
To clarify, a red light violation occurs when all four of a vehicle’s wheels end up in front of the stop bar, which is the white line prior to the crosswalk. The violation is a $158 fine and is mailed to the registered owner of the vehicle.
To view an example violation check out our photos attached to the article. The ticket shows two photos, the date, speed, and even time of how long the light was red before the vehicle went through the intersection.
UPDATE: March 22, 2011.
Readers asked Gulfport Patch two specific questions:
How much does the program cost? and What is the definition of running a red light while making a right turn?
According the Gulfport Police Chief Robert Vincent the city pays American Traffic Solutions, Inc $4,500 a month for the cameras. "However, we have a revenue neutrality clause in our contract which specifies that we do not have to pay them if the cameras do not generate enough revenue to cover the costs," Vincent wrote in his response.
According to a Gulfport City Ordinance, a right on red is a violation if the turn is not made in a “careful and prudent manner,” which is defined as follows:
(a) Careful and Prudent Manner shall mean having regard for width, grade, curves, corners, traffic, actual and potential hazards, and all other attendant circumstances so as not to endanger pedestrians, other motor vehicles, or the property of another.