Mayor Bloomberg: We Should Have Red Light Cameras on Every Corner

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Mayor Michael Bloomberg in Brooklyn's Steiner Studios, fielding a question about red light cameras (photo: Edward Reed/Office of the Mayor)

Today, while kicking off this year’s television season (23 series are being filmed in New York City, including the upcoming Pan Am), Mayor Michael Bloomberg was asked about red light cameras in New York City.

Some background: in 1988, New York enacted legislation that permits red light cameras in cities of over 1,000,000 people. There are currently 150 cameras across New York City, and the New York Daily News reports that they brought in $52 million in fines last year.

Even though studies show that red light cameras save lives, many people oppose them, saying that they represent a Big-Brotherish invasion of privacy and that the motivation behind them is driven by revenue, not safety concerns.  Houston, Texas, is poised to become the second large city in America to turn off its red light cameras.

You can listen to the mayor's comments here, or read the transcript below.

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Question from reporter: There are reports that the city might want to install 40 more red light cameras.

Mayor Bloomberg: I think we should have them on every corner if we could. Using technology instead of having cops makes a lot of sense, and something, because of the economics, that we really have to do, and it does show that they are very effective.

Question: I had read that after a while people know where the red light cameras are...

Mayor Bloomberg: Well, if that were the case, the fines from the red light cameras would be diminishing, and it's not. So, just the evidence that you have, says whoever wrote that doesn't know what they're talking about. I'm sure there's somebody -- but if you know that there's a red light camera there, and you stop, rather than running through the light -- isn't that what we like? So I hope they're right, although the evidence says so far  they're wrong. But if they watch you on television, I know they're going to say 'I'm never going to go through a red light again.' And incidentally, if people didn't go through red lights, you'd save a lot of lives, of elderly and kids and that sort of thing.

The mayor went on to say that it's a particular safety issue for seniors. "I can tell you as I get older, you don't hear as well, see as well, you don't react as quickly, and a disproportionate percentage of people who get hit from people running red lights are ... the seniors."

Another reporter: what about speed cameras?

Mayor Bloomberg: A lot of places are using these...we can fight this all we want. But the world as you saw in the studio is going towards using technology. We cannot afford to put a cop on every corner, a firehouse in every place -- we have to find ways to do more with less...we just can't afford to pay to have people do a lot of things that society needs done.

Question:  back to city speed cameras...

Mayor Bloomberg: I have no idea. But we'd certainly need Albany legislation, because ... we can't impose a fine without Albany acquiescing. We can put up cameras, and in fact you do see places where there's a sign that says 'you're going 30 miles an hour, the speed limit's 20.'  But we can't fine you unless Albany agrees. That's the thing. We can put red light cameras on every single intersection -- you just can't use them. Maybe what we should do is do it and start publishing in the paper who does it and then the list of the senators and assemblymen who keep us from having cameras, and every time there's somebody hit, say 'okay, assemblyman and senator so-and- so didn't think that person's life...this our lives of our people we're talking about, this is not something cute, and we've got to do something about it.