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City of Columbia Taking Steps to Bring Red-Light Cameras Back

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The city of Columbia is moving back toward using red-light cameras. 

Previously, the city had used cameras from 2009 to 2013, but stopped because of unclear court rulings surrounding their use.

Last month, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled the use of red-light cameras was constitutional, which prompted the city to look back into installing cameras at various intersections.

“The Supreme Court decision came out, which addressed the parameters that cities who wish to install a red-light camera program would have to follow in order for the program to be constitutional," Columbia Deputy City Manager Tony St. Romaine said. "We have that guidance from them now."

In the four years the city had red-light cameras in place, St. Romaine said roughly 5,400 tickets were issued. Each fine was $120, with $76 going to the city and $44 going to the operating camera vendor Gatso USA Inc. St. Romaine said the money generated goes toward community protection, such as the Police Department and Fire Department.

The Police Department won’t be enforcing the policy, though. The camera system is automated. It sends a ticket to the offender after scanning their picture and matching it to one of the driver’s licenses in their database.

“We had our red-light provider install two sets of cameras at every intersection, one rear-facing camera and one forward-facing camera. This gives us a picture of the driver so we can clearly see who committed the violation,” St. Romaine said.

The aim of the potential change is to improve safety downtown, which is something MU student Gigi Carter said is a positive.

“I’m from Chicago and we have red-light cameras everywhere," Carter said. "They’re really annoying, but they’re kind of a good thing because I think to a lot of people, when we see a yellow light it means, ‘last chance’ instead of stop."

St. Romaine also said the change would be about public safety more than anything else.

“It is a public safety issue. I think just creating the awareness in Columbia that red-light cameras are in operation adds that general awareness for the general public,” St. Romaine said.

Columbia City Council will consider the proposal to bring the cameras back in late October or early November. If they decide to bring them back, they would then hear bids from different camera vendors.

St. Romaine estimated the cameras could be up and running in four to six months after approval from City Council.

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