7,000 more questionable red-light tickets under City Hall review

Written By BY FRANCINE KNOWLES Staff Reporter Posted: 08/03/2014, 02:26am
Array George Wimberly passed out flyers to protest red light/speed cameras at the intersection of Kostner & Ogden. Saturday, August 2, 2014 | Brian Jackson/Sun-Times

An extra 7,000 questionable red-light camera tickets are now being examined by Chicago officials to see if even more motorists may be eligible for potential refunds.

In a sign the problem of suspicious spikes in red-light camera tickets may go further than City Hall has previously acknowledged, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s spokeswoman Kelley Quinn said Saturday that its review has been expanded to 16,000 tickets.

Last month, Transportation Commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld said the city would reach out to 9,000 motorists who received tickets at 12 intersections, to inform them they could have their violations reviewed upon request. That was in response to a Chicago Tribune investigation which revealed huge unexplained spikes in the numbers of violations at those intersections.

The additional 7,000 tickets are at the same intersections but cover a wider time period, Quinn said.

Drivers could be issued refunds if it’s found the citations, issued over the past seven years, were wrongly issued. They will be notified by mail of their opportunity to have what amounts to a third review. Drivers who challenge their tickets will be provided with a link to view the same video evidence that the city will review, Quinn said.

Spikes in average violations can happen for various reasons, including “construction, weather and special events,” she noted.

But the onus is on the city — which is working with the Inspector General’s office, and KPMG — to prove that tickets were correctly issued.

The red-light camera program has drawn flak for years. Redflex, the Australian company which installed the cameras, lost its contract with the city last year amid allegations that it had paid bribes. And earlier this year city worker John Bills was charged with soliciting favors in including a used Mercedes and a condo in Arizona to secure Redflex the contract.

On Saturday protestors with Citizens to Abolish Red Light Cameras held a rally Ogden and Kostner, calling for the program to be scrapped.

“This is a very flawed system, and this system should be halted immediately,” said Mark Wallace, executive director of the group. “We will be demonstrating at red-light cameras every week to bring awareness to the community.”

Last month, Transportation Committee Chairman Anthony Beale (9th) demanded the city put the brakes on the program until an investigation by Inspector General Joe Ferguson is completed.

The city has yet to discover “any purposeful intent” to alter the methods of enforcement at a particular intersection, a source said.

“We have not found instances where a ticket was issued in error, and we have found no evidence to suggest that tickets were issued unfairly to people who did not break the law,” said the source.

Contributing: Fran Spielman

Email: fknowles@suntimes.com

Twitter: @KnowlesFran

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