When the speed camera were introduced, the program seemed to be more about safety than revenue. However, this story by CBS Chicago shows the lines can be blurry.
Businessman Peter Patel says customers are constantly complaining about the a speed camera located near his store on Lawrence Avenue. “I did not see any park around this camera,” says Ayubiu Khan, the owner of a nearby car repair shop who is mad about the $100 tickets he has gotten. He thinks the cameras are all about “money, plain and simple,” he says.
They are complaining about two of the most active speed cameras in the city. City officials say they were placed on the Northwest side to protect children walking to a from a tiny play lot known as Ashmore Park.
The camera at 4831 W. Lawrence has already issued 18,806 tickets so far this year. That makes it the fifth most active speed camera in the city.
The second camera is at 4909 North Cicero, right along the Edens Expressway. It’s the No. 1 ticket producer for the city, issuing 51,075 tickets so far this year. That’s $1.7 million dollars in revenue for the city.
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And for the speed camera on Lawrence to be effective, children would have to walk through a car wash and down and alley to get to the Ashmore playlot that has an entrance on Gunnison.
“It makes no sense to me,” says 45th Ward Ald. John Arena. “The park is literally an excuse to put the speed camera there, there’s no denying that.”
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Another top-performing speed camera at a questionable location is the one at 10318 S. Indianapolis. There’s no school or park with children at risk, just a nearby bike trail.
It’s issued 17,993 tickets this year, collecting $1 million from drivers.
Michael Claffey, a spokesperson for the Chicago City Department of Transportation, says a state law allows speed cameras within one-eighth of a mile of Child Safety Zones. The city, he says, has speed cameras in 61 of the 1,500 such zones in Chicago.
In a written statement, he explained that the city “prioritizes the zones based on the number of crashes, the number of crashes involving fatalities and serious injuries, bicycle and pedestrian crashes, crashes involving high speed or young people.”
The decision to place speed cameras at the locations highlighted in one report was based on an examination of crash data between 2009 and 2012. The zones “ranked highly in the ratings of dangerous Child Safety zones based on crash data,” the statement said.
“Traffic safety data shows that speed cameras are successful in reducing the incidence of speeding,” the city said.