The cost of red light cameras in Council Bluffs

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Ia (FOX42KPTM) - If you've ever been to Council Bluffs, you probably know all about those red light cameras placed around the city. A lot of people have gotten tickets from those cameras, so we wanted to know just how much the city is making off of those devices.

In Council Bluffs, it's easy to get a ticket if you miss the warning signs and run a red light.

"I knew it was coming because I remember seeing the flash," said Alisa Roth, who works in Council Bluffs.

Roth considers herself a careful driver. Even she got a ticket.

"It wasn't totally unexpected. It was one of those things where you pay up and move along."

Roth isn't alone. Since 2010, more than 600,000 citations have been issued in Iowa. The videos of violators caught in the act end up at local police departments.

"We'll see crashes where a light was red for five or six seconds and someone will come barreling through," said Jason Bailey, a Council Bluffs police sergeant.

Sergeant Bailey told FOX 42 News it's alarming what the video evidence reveals. In 2014, nine years after red light cameras were activated at five Council Bluffs intersections, the Iowa Department of Transportation logged 43 crashes at red light intersections. That's 22 more than before cameras were put into place at those same intersections in 2004.

"It's crazy what will happen out there," said Sergeant Bailey.

Sergeant Bailey isn't sure why crashes have gone up. He says some years are just better than others. As drivers break the law and the fines pile up, Council Bluffs winds up making quite a bit of money. We went digging to find out just how much. The cameras first went up in 2005. We uncovered that since then the city has made more than $6 million. More than $900,000 was raked in in 2016.

"We're creating better drivers," said Don Bauermeister, assistant city attorney with Council Bluffs. "What I mean by that is we're catching the bad driving habits and then we expose them and shed some light on it."

Bauermeister says not everyone who gets a camera citation ends up having to pay. In his office, you can appeal. If you can make a strong case you don't deserve a ticket, you may get the benefit of the doubt. Statewide, it's the kind of process not everyone has used. Stats show since 2010 only about 20,000 citations out of 660,000 have successfully been appealed.

"I think once people look at the video and sit down and review what they're supposed to do, it really brings about an awareness to the everyday driver," said Bauermeister.

For the people that don't appeal, Bauermeister says the fines can range anywhere from $65 to $100.

As for speed cameras, Sergeant Bailey told FOX 42 News he's not aware of any plans to put those in the Council Bluffs area. In Omaha, local engineers say there are currently no plans for red light cameras in the city.

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