Des Moines will soon become the seventh Iowa city to use cameras to catch motorists breaking traffic laws. Cameras located at 5 of the capital city’s busiest intersections will go live at midnight Friday.

Other cities have generated hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue from the cameras, but Des Moines Police Sergeant Chris Scott insists the primary goal is improving safety. “The police department’s stance on this is you simply shouldn’t be speeding or running red lights,” Scott said.

In addition to the five cameras at intersections catching red light runners, a mobile camera – mounted in a marked SUV – will be activated Friday to track motorists who are speeding. Another fixed camera will be mounted along Interstate 235 at a later date, possibly in the fall.

New Des Moines traffic camera.

Scott says it will be located in an area where it’s difficult for police to check speeds with radar and pull over motorists. Those caught breaking traffic laws on camera will be sent citations in the mail. Scott says only “flagrant violations” of red light infractions will be enforced.

Signs that say “Photo Enforced” are now in place at the intersections. Motorists will receive warnings during a one-month grace period and then will face a minimum $65 fine for running a red light. Scott says speeding citations start at $65 for driving up to 15 miles per hour over the limit.

 The fine is increased to $75 for 16 to 20 mph over the limit and $80, plus $2 for every mile over 21 mph above the posted speed limit.

Cedar Rapids installed 19 traffic cameras in 2010 and collected $2 million over the first year – with most of that money generated from speeding cameras on Interstate 380. Scott is hoping skeptical citizens of Des Moines will feel different about the cameras in a few months.

He notes a poll conducted in Cedar Rapids, one year after the cameras were installed, found 64% of citizens felt the cameras improved public safety while 28% felt they were only put in place to generate revenue. “I think that’s very successful,” Scott said. In addition to Des Moines and Cedar Rapids, traffic enforcement cameras are in place in Sioux City, Council Bluffs, Muscatine, Davenport and Clive.

Sign warning of traffic camera in Des Moines.

The red light camera locations in Des Moines include: SE 5th Street and Army Post Road; Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway and School Street; East 15th Street and Maple Street; 9th Street and Grand Avenue; and 19th Street and University Avenue. Gatso USA, Inc., based in Massachusetts, paid the entire cost – roughly $500,000 – to install the cameras in Des Moines.

Gatso will collect $27 from each paid red light citation and $25 for each speeding violation.