Red light cameras more profitable for Rio Rancho than expected

On pace for nearly $500,000 in 12 months

RIO RANCHO, N.M, (KRQE) – Unser Boulevard in Rio Rancho was a speeder’s nightmare on Wednesday.

There are speed and red light cameras at the intersections with Southern Boulevard and Northern Boulevard and on Wednesday there was a speed enforcement van set up in between.

Any violation caught clearly on camera is a $100 ticket.

Not all of that money goes to the city of Rio Rancho. Camera company Redflex gets its cut as does the state and Rio Rancho has to pay its costs. Even so, the City of Vision is seeing a lot more revenue from its automated traffic enforcement program than expected.

Take the current fiscal year, FY 2015. Rio Rancho budgeted for $380,000 to come in to the city’s coffers from the program. So far, they’re on pace to bring in $494,500 according to an analysis provided to Rio Rancho City Council.

That influx of cash had councilors Mark Scott and Chuck Wilkins proposing a way to spend it. A resolution introduced Wednesday called for any surplus in the program going forward to go toward acquiring equipment for the police department. Currently, $190,000 of next year’s expected revenues will go to buying new police vehicles while another $190,000 goes into the general fund.

In FY 2017, all of the revenue is set to go towards buying new police vehicles.

While councilor Shelby Smith isn’t opposed to where the money is going, he believes the sheer amount of money is evidence some of the cameras were put out for profit and not to improve safety.

“If we had a high fatality rate or we had a high rate of t-bone accidents I would be one of the ones who wouild be a proponent for bringing them here,” Smith said. “It’s not why these cameras were brought here.”

Smith worries that the city will become overly dependent on the red light camera money.

“Unfortunately money is like drugs for any governmental entity,” Smith said.

City statistics from 2013 shows crashes at the two red light camera intersections did decline over a three year period. Those statistics also show most of the tickets are being mailed to Albuquerque addresses with Rio Rancho residents only getting about a third.

While Scott has some worries of his own about the red light cameras, he believes residents are happy with the speed enforcement vans.

“My constituents ask for the speed vans to be put in their neighborhoods,” Scott said. “They call me on the phone and say please put a speed van in my neighborhood people are going way too fast here, we’re worried about the kids.”

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