Daily Herald
Schaumburg decides cameras just not worth it
By Eric Peterson | Daily Herald Staff
Published: 7/13/2009 12:02 AM | Updated: 7/13/2009 11:35 PM

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Companies are selling red-light cameras as a technology that pays for itself even as it cuts down on the cost of patrol officers, Schaumburg Mayor Al Larson says.

In other words, there's nothing to lose and everything to gain by their use.

But that wasn't Schaumburg's final assessment. The village is poised to drop the cameras for good this week after a tumultuous, eight-month trial run.

Recent marketing of the cameras in the suburbs has been based on their being a proven commodity in Chicago first, Larson said.

"It's presented as a perfectly acceptable replacement for a patrol officer," Larson added.

And while none of the companies that approached Schaumburg ever promised a cash cow, the cameras were presented as generating enough fines to at least pay for their lease.

There did appear at first to be a legitimate public-safety benefit from the cameras, though the potential for financial gain for the companies themselves was never lost on anyone, Larson said.

"There's always an entrepreneurial spirit out there," he said. "We decided to do it on a trial basis. And I'll say this again, we never intended it to be a revenue producer."

Larson believes he wasn't alone in his chief concern being the creation of a "Big Brother" society in which motorists are constantly having their picture taken.

But the companies successfully allay this fear by stressing that the cameras don't peer inside vehicles but aim only for the license plates.

Despite Schaumburg's own experience with the cameras, the village will not translate that into advice for other communities, Larson said.

Schaumburg's primary reason for dropping the cameras - that only the tiniest percentage of its crashes are caused by drivers disobeying red lights - may not be true for another community, he added.