Dan McGowan

Providence speed cameras brought in $1.8M in 5 months

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Providence collected more than $1.8 million in fines during the first five months of its controversial speed camera program, but it remains unclear how much of that revenue will be returned to drivers once a settlement to a lawsuit challenging the cameras is finalized.

The city issued 36,883 speeding violations between Jan. 16 and June 12, according to figures provided to the City Council last week by Municipal Court administrator Patrick Butler. There are currently 11 cameras in operation.

Each speeding ticket results in a $95 fine, which means about $1.7 million hasn’t been collected. Dozens of the outstanding violations were dismissed in February as a result of errors printed on the tickets.

“It's definitely working,” Butler told the Council Finance Committee last week, citing a massive reduction in the number of tickets issued in recent weeks.  Butler said the camera located in front of Mount Pleasant High School generated 1,372 speeding tickets during its first week of operation, but only 204 during one week earlier this month.

With the exception of a camera placed on Chalkstone Avenue, every camera location has seen a drop in tickets of between 24% and 85% since they were installed, according to data provided to the committee. The Chalkstone Avenue location saw a 5.7% reduction in tickets.

In May, attorneys for the city agreed to issue $20 refunds to anyone who paid a $95 fine between Jan. 16 and April 15 as part of a settlement to a federal class-action lawsuit challenging various aspects of the speed camera program. Drivers who had not yet paid the $95 fine during that period will only be required to pay $75.

The settlement agreement is still making its way through the court, so it’s not yet clear how much Providence will be forced to pay back. The city will send a notice to all ticket recipients in the coming weeks giving them the option to receive a refund, pay the $75 fine or go to trial to challenge their ticket.

The fine for tickets issued after April 15 remains $95, but the General Assembly is considering legislation that would lower future fines to $50. One bill has already won passage in the House, while a slightly different version is expected to be approved by the Senate Wednesday. The legislative session is expected to close Friday.

The city only budgeted for $500,000 in revenue during the current fiscal year, which ends June 30. The new city budget, which is expected to be approved by the City Council later this week, projects about $600,000 in revenue.

The new budget requires the city to set aside at least 35% of all revenue generated through the speed cameras for traffic-calming measurers and school safety programs, according to Finance Committee Chairman John Igliozzi.

Under the current program, tickets can be issued for any vehicle caught traveling at least 11 miles per hour over the posted speed limit between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, according to the city's contract with Conduent State and Local Solutions Inc., the private vendor that oversees both speed cameras and red light cameras in the city. Conduent is paid $7.50 for every processed violation no matter the outcome of the ticket in Municipal Court.

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Dan McGowan (dmcgowan@wpri.com) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan

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