Geneva's three-year experiment with red-light cameras at two dangerous intersections will come to an end in early March.
Geneva police Cmdr. Julie Nash said by e-mail this week that the contract is set to expire at 11:59 p.m. March 8, 2013. That "fade to black" marks the end of a sometimes controversial police enforcement technology that was hailed by some as the wave of the future and condemned by others as too much "Big Brother" oversight by local government.
Red-light cameras also came into play as a political issue in the 2012 Republican primary race for Kane County Board chairman, when then-candidate Chris Lauzen held a press conference decrying the cameras in the hometown of his opponent, Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns.
Burns said Thursday that the Geneva Police Department would be putting together a comprehensive report of the red-light cameras after the contract ends. The report is expecte to look at the overall number of accidents, the numbers of tickets issued and offer some analysis of the cameras' effects.
"It’s my belief—and I trust the City Council's belief—when we entered into this agreement three years ago that it was predicated on the idea that technology can help us provide safer roadways in Geneva and a more efficient way to police," Burns said in a brief phone interview Thursday.
Burns said he didn't have final numbers, but in ballpark figures, Geneva issued about $390,000 in fines in 2011, about $100,000 in 2012 and about $10,000 so far in 2013.
"In terms of efficiency and effectiveness, it was worth experimenting with," Burns said. "This was never about generating revenue. It was about promoting safer roadways."
Geneva has two red-light cameras in operation on Randall Road, at the intersections of Williamsburg Avenue and Fargo Boulevard, which statistics show to be "two of the more dangerous intersections, not only in our community, but in Kane County," Burns said.
Burns acknowledged that the camera enforcement was an "experiment," but he said it was an experiment worth exploring. Police can't be everywhere, he said, but with camera enforcement, they can be in a position to make good law-enforcement decisions at the intersections where accidents happen most frequently.
Geneva's program was different than those of other communities, where tickets sometimes are automatically triggered. Geneva police officers reviewed every potential infraction and issued citations only if the officer felt a citation was warranted.
"Our program was unique, the only one of its kind in the state of Illinois," Burns said. "People (in government) like to talk about innovation, but they don't always follow through. My hunch is, as technology advances, there’s going to be a demand for implementing technology to provide additional safety."
Geneva police have a philosophy "to educate, then enforce," Burns said. That philosophy is reflected in police traffic reports, which more often than not reflect a warning notice for first offenses.
When asked if the loss of revenue from red-light cameras might change that policy, Burns said that simply would not be the case.
The red-light cameras had to be approved by Kane County. Burns said the city did not intend to seek permission to install red-light cameras at other intersections once the cameras at Fargo and Williamsburg are taken down, and he would not expect Kane County to approve new cameras if the city were to make an appeal.
"Based on the chairman's position, my assumption is it has run its course," Burns said.
No one can say what accidents might have been prevented due to the red-light cameras or whether they were a help or hindrance to drivers. The city's intent was to change driving habits, and Burns said the statistic appear to indicate a reduction in the number of accidents overall, over time.
"I think people have come to learn to be more cautious," he said. "And hopefully, (they) will continue to be when the cameras are no longer available."