A bill that would ban cities from using traffic enforcement cameras has cleared an Iowa House subcommittee.
Several Iowa communities, including Des Moines, Council Bluffs, Sioux City, Muscatine, Cedar Rapids and Davenport, use the cameras to issue tickets to motorists who are speeding or running red lights.
Police and other advocates of the cameras say they’ve significantly reduced crashes. Representative Walt Rogers, a Republican from Cedar Falls, says lawmakers have to consider more than just the numbers on safety.
“I think state legislators are also charged to protect our liberties. So, what this is about is balancing safety and liberty. That’s what we are trying to figure out,” Rogers said.
Opponents also complain the cameras are more about revenue than safety. Proponents don’t completely refute that argument.
Bruce Bergman is with the Iowa League of Cities. “This tool, which is effective, helps in tough economic times to keep officers working, to have a little bit more money, to do a little bit more traffic work and to allow police officers do a little bit more of the criminal investigation type work as well,” Bergman said.
Representative Ralph Watts, a Republican from Adel, says the use of technology is a slippery slope. “The question I have is how far do you go to monitor the population with cameras?” Watts asked.
Cedar Rapids Police Captain Steve O’Konek insists the benefits of traffic cameras outweigh other concerns. “We have been a strong proponent of using whatever processes we can to leverage technology, to allow our officers to redeploy and do other things,” O’Konek said. “They’re not spending time on the interstate running radar or spending time at intersections monitoring (traffic).”
The City of Des Moines reported a net revenue of $192,365 from camera-recorded violations in the month of December.