St. Petersburg's red light cameras are now fully operational, and the first wave of warnings are in the mail.
Actual "notices of violation" with $158 penalties kick in October 29th. All are processed the same way: camera records alleged violation, images go to a vendor in Arizona, where some are screened. Then, the information returns to the St. Petersburg Police Department.
That's where more than half a dozen retired police officers now have new part-time jobs as the final arbiters of violation. They have now completed a week of training, which produced the first warnings.
"We've got a pretty step-by-step review going on where it's not just one person, it's not just being sent out because a picture was taken," explained retired patrol Sgt. Nikki Van Peer. "There are multiple people looking at this."
Unlike traffic officers on the street, these enforcers have the luxury of time and, if necessary, frame-by-frame review of an alleged violation and violator. Enlarged still frames of license plates are double-checked to make sure they belong to the car caught on camera.
Right-turn-on-reds get careful review. As a matter of policy, St. Petersburg is not looking for a complete stop.
"We're looking for those people that are creating a hazard," explained Lt. Bill Kornick. "They're coming in too fast, they're going around that corner too fast, there may be a pedestrian or another vehicle in the roadway."
Kornick said the equipment vendor has been instructed not to forward any right-on-reds if the vehicle was going less than 12 miles per hour.
But actual violators will receive the same incriminating evidence as other jurisdictions provide. In addition to a freeze frame of the vehicle in the middle of an intersection, the monitoring devices reveal how long a light was red before the picture was taken. Recipients can also go to a website and review the actual video.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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