Mayor Bob Filner announced Friday that the city will be ending a controversial red light camera program.
The program charges violators up to $490 when the automated cameras catch motorists running red lights. The program contract with the city expired Thursday night and will not be renewed, Filner said.
"The state and company make money," Filner said of American Traffic Solutions, the company that contracts the cameras to the City of San Diego. "But it's a wash for us," he said.
Now, the city will bring police officers back to the 15 intersections that up until Thursday had operating red light cameras. The officers will patrol the areas and cite those who run red lights.
Filner made the announcement at the intersection of Grape Street and North Harbor Drive -- the city's most prolific red light camera intersection. The program lasted almost 15 years and survived three contracts. In total, the number of unverified citations given as a result of the camera was more than 196,000.
“I did not see any real data that showed [the cameras] increased safety or decreased accidents,” Filner said. “The police chief and I decided we have better respect for what is going on if actual police officers on motorcycles, for example, and talking to the drivers. You get more awareness and more of a respect for the law.”
SDPD Chief William Lansdowne joined Filner Friday in the announcement and echoed Filner's concerns over having boots on the ground as opposed to cameras at intersections.
"The most effective way to create safety in traffic is with officers," he said of the joint decision between his department and the city.
The system charged everyone the same fine for a red light violation. Attorney Mitchell Mehdy believed not every violation deserved such a stiff penalty.
"If you make a right hand turn half a second or barrel through a light at 12 seconds almost killing somebody, it's the same price. That doesn't make sense," he said.
However most drivers would probably agree that driving habits tend to change when you approach a red light camera intersection.
"It does make you slow down further back if you see that yellow light," said Kearny Mesa resident Nathaniel Brown.
That's one reason why officials with American Traffic Solutions said these cameras force people to drive safer.