Residents of Oxnard weary of catching the eye of a red-light camera should worry not, as the city’s high-tech traffic enforcing system is currently offline while the Oxnard Police Department considers whether or not to renew its contract with the operator, Redflex.
Since Jan. 31, the city’s network of 11 so-called “approaches” (lights that are monitored by a camera) at eight intersections have been deactivated after the contract with Redflex was allowed to expire. The city had had a contract with Redflex since 2003.
Further, in May of 2016, a citizen alerted the chief of police that several yellow lights were out of compliance with state mandated “minimum yellow light” intervals, the time before the light switches to red. The city of Oxnard sets the timing of lights based on the 85th percentile, a measure of the average speed of all vehicles. A posted speed limit of 50 miles per hour would require a minimum yellow-light interval of 4.7 seconds as standardized by the state of California’s Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices.
Lights out of compliance included the intersections of Rose Avenue and Gonzalez Road with a posted speed of 45 miles per hour. At the 85th percentile, the speed had been set to 51 miles per hour, which would require a 4.7 minimum yellow interval. The approach, however, had been set by the city to 5 seconds, meaning that the light was still yellow when drivers legally entered the intersection but would have been captured on camera from 4.7 to 4.9 seconds and cited.
Other intersections included two approaches, at Saviers Road and Channel Islands Boulevard as well as Victoria Avenue and Wooley Road.
Oxnard Police Department Cmdr. Randy Latimer, who oversees the traffic division, says that the issue had been overlooked due to turnover in the city’s traffic engineering department, but that the issue has been resolved, adding that 150 citations have been refunded.
“I think it was the right thing to do. We’re not looking to make money; we have to make sure we’re in compliance,” said Latimer. “Unfortunately in this occurrence someone missed it.”
The city of Oxnard had a “cost neutral” clause in its agreement with Redflex. The revenue generated by red-light cameras minus operating costs, which included an officer to manage the program and court fees, determined the monthly invoice from Redflex, and any payment owed to Redflex “zeroed out” at the end of the contract, according to Latimer.
In 2016, revenue from Ventura County courts for citations netted $320,740, while net operating costs were $335,258, including $289,971 to Redflex, for a net of negative $14,518.
“There’s no obligation to the city and no intent of the city to have to repay that,” said Latimer. “As far as we’re concerned, this entire photo red-light system is, from its inception, has always been cost neutral. The city’s not looking to make money on it; it’s a 100 percent lifesaving method that we use to prevent red-light crashes.”
In the city of Ventura, where there are 18 red-light cameras, the city has had a contract with Redflex since 2001, but decided against signing a long-term contract following the expiration of the current three-year contract (which ends in 2018) and instead will go month-to-month, citing increasing debt.
For fiscal year 2015-2016, red-light cameras in the city generated $39,420 per month for Redflex and $21,186 per month for the city. An average red-light violation citation costs $490, of which the city receives $143 to split with Redflex. The rest goes to paying state and county fees.
Since 2001 in Ventura, the total amount owed to Redflex had grown to a total of $2.7 million by 2014. A new contract would have forgiven $1.7 million, but the City Council rejected the idea in 2015.
In fiscal year 2015-2016, gross revenue generated from the courts totaled $748,360 and Ventura paid Redflex $470,170, leaving the Ventura Police Department with $278,190, most of which went toward paying for a corporal to operate the system, extra help at traffic positions, and internal service funds.
Ventura’s general fund received $40,871.
Oxnard Assistant Police Chief Jason Benites could not comment on why the contract with Redflex was allowed to expire, but did say that the cameras have been an important tool.
“We have had the red-light camera program in place for over a decade and a half and have shown that it has been an effective tool in reducing broadside collisions at intersections equipped with those devices,” said Benites.
Latimer says that the police department will look into adding system enhancements and more cameras at intersections within the city, should the contract be renewed.
“Once again, we have seen collision reduction based on having the system,” said Latimer.
Oxnard City Councilman Bryan MacDonald said that he was unaware that the contract had expired and referred questions to the Oxnard Police Department. Redflex did not respond to a request for comment.