“This is the best law enforcement tool the Legislature has ever given police,” he said.
That tool, a camera attached to the stoplight at the intersection of U.S. Highway 19/41 and Georgia Highway 92, does not need training, food or bathroom breaks.
Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, it watches for red-light violators.
The intersection got its camera in October 2006, after surveys revealed that the intersection had the most red-light violations. Most automobile accidents are caused when someone runs a red light.
“It was determined that North Expressway at McIntosh Road was where the most violations were occurring, so that’s where the first red-light camera system was put in,” Rogers said.
After two months in operation, traffic accidents at the site dropped more than 60 percent. Such decreases do not always happen. Sometimes when red-light cameras are installed, red-light violations decrease but other sorts of accidents — such as cars running the red light striking cars ahead of them — increase.
“We have not experienced that, an increase in following-too-close accidents,” Rogers said.
The camera not only takes before and after shots of the cars running red lights but also takes video footage of the cars.
“That in and of itself is a great deterrent to people driving erratically,” he said.
The single camera has been so successful at reducing accident rates that the Police Department is planning to install another one at the intersection of 13th and Taylor streets.
Rogers said that intersection had the highest number of straight-through red-light violations in a 24-hour period and the most traffic accidents over a three-month period.
Redflex Holdings, the company that leases the existing camera system to Griffin, will convene a committee to see if it is feasible to set up a camera at the second intersection. Officials will examine the earlier surveys of the intersection and conduct an additional survey.
In addition to reducing accident rates, the red-light cameras serve as a means of generating revenue for the city. According to City Manager Kenny Smith, the cameras have generated $7,000 for the city in the last month.
“It’s not about revenue, it’s about reducing traffic accidents,” Rogers said.
He said that although Redflex Holdings receives a percentage of the revenue generated by the system in addition to a set fee, it is the police officers who have the final say on whether or not a citation is issued.
“I’ve never had anyone at Redflex yet question a citation we did not agree on,” he said.
That, however, has not stopped complaints about the system. Rogers said he receives phone calls from irate motorists who claim the system violates people’s right to privacy. Rogers said that if motorists do not want to be filmed, they should not leave their house — there is no expectation of privacy on the road.
He also pointed out that the red-light violations picked up on camera are civil matters, not criminal ones, due to the fact that a live officer is not involved. This means that the standards for conviction are lower — a preponderance of evidence rather than beyond reasonable doubt.