Blair considers return of photo radar to save cash
Toronto police Chief Bill Blair addresses a news conference Tuesday, July 17, 2012. (The Canadian Press/Ian Willms)
Published Wednesday, January 9, 2013 9:03AM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, January 9, 2013 5:55PM EST
Toronto’s top cop says it may be time to reintroduce photo radar and expand the number of red light cameras in the city as a way to bring down policing costs and be more efficient in enforcing certain traffic laws.
The proposed photo radar comeback is likely to create a bit of rage for motorists, who opposed the technology the last time it was used to catch speeders on Toronto streets.
According to a Toronto Star report, police Chief Bill Blair wants to take another look at photo radar cameras and red light camera expansion because he believes the technology may free up officers to do other tasks, keep policing costs down and improve road safety.
“His position is that police officers are a very expensive resource to use for something which technology can do, and much more economically,” Blair’s spokesman, Mark Pugash, told the newspaper.
Pugash said the technology would improve safety and traffic flow.
Critics argue photo radar programs are used as cash grabs to increase revenue for police and municipal budgets.
Blair's proposal comes at a time when the Toronto Police Service is facing budget cuts, a hiring freeze and a funding gap, but Pugash told the Star that the service isn’t looking to increase revenue through the use of photo enforcement.
The police service has not released any statistics or information about the number of officers who would be freed up, the potential savings or the cost of a photo radar program.
Previous photo radar use was scrapped
Photo radar was last introduced in Ontario in 1994 but the program lasted just 11 months after complaints from motorists and politicians.
In August 2004, the province passed a law that allows municipalities to operate red light cameras, and later increased the fine for running a red light from $180 to $325.
In Toronto, 87 cameras rotate among 114 intersections.
According to the City of Toronto, collisions resulting in deaths and personal injuries have been reduced by more than 25 per cent as a result of red light camera enforcement.
Responding to allegations of a tax grab, the city says that it costs more to operate the cameras than the program generates in terms of revenue.
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