The red light cameras in San Juan Capistrano won’t be going anywhere despite efforts by Mayor Londres Uso to rid the town of the devices that he says make money for the city but have no real impact on public safety.
Right now the city has two red-light cameras, one at the intersection of Del Obispo Street and Camino Capistrano, and another at the Del Obispo Street and Ortega Highway intersection.
At the regular city council meeting Tuesday, Dan Dwyer, an Orange County Sheriff’s lieutenant and chief of police services for the city, delivered a presentation showing that accidents decreased by 80 percent at the Camino Capistrano intersection and 35 percent at the Ortega Highway intersection.
Uso said the decrease in accidents is not necessarily attributable to the cameras. To understand the real impact of the red-light cameras, he said, council should look to the number of citations issued in the first and last years of cameras’ operation, which Uso said were the same. If the cameras actually were deterring drivers from running red lights, there should be a gradual drop in citations over the years, Uso said.
He also cited the city of Anaheim’s recent ban of red light cameras. The argument posed by Anaheim is that red light cameras do more harm than good by scaring drivers into unnecessarily slamming on their breaks for fear of the flash.
“[Anaheim] Mayor Pringle realized that red light cameras are more of a fund generator than a safety issue,” Uso said.
Dwyer disagreed with Uso’s analysis. Although there haven’t been any fatal accidents at the two intersections before or after the cameras were installed, Dwyer said if the cameras saved even one life they were worth it.
Only Councilman Tom Hribar sided with Uso.
Councilman Mark Nielson said the revenue alone is a good enough reason to keep the cameras. Nielson said the $200,000 that they bring in amounted to “20 years of revenue from the In-N-Out Burger,” a reference to recent battles over the drive-thru restaurants that have taken place at recent meetings.