Transportation commission approves red-light camera policy

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

Communities with red-light cameras installed on state roads have 60 days to remove them according to a policy passed Thursday by the State Transportation Commission.

The commission unanimously voted to approve the policy during a meeting held at the Clovis-Carver Library’s North Annex. The commission was meeting in Clovis as part of its monthly rotation of traveling to communities throughout the state.

The policy also bans mobile enforcement vans on state or federal roads.

“This is a policy that I feel very strongly about,” Chairman Johnny Cope said.

“I think we have a fine Department of Public Safety. I think they do their jobs and that’s more than adequate — I just don’t like the policy (of using red-light cameras) period.

Municipalities are still free to use the cameras on their own roads.

“I feel conflicted today,” said Commissioner Doug Peterson, explaining he would feel responsible if accidents occurred at lights where the cameras have been removed.

But ultimately Peterson said he felt better about approving it, as long as, “any municipalities that have (a case to keep one installed), let them come present on a case by case basis.”

Santa Fe Police Department’s Capt. Anthony Robbins argued in favor of red-light cameras, citing statistics showing a more than 50 percent drop in red-light and speed violations at lights where cameras are installed.

He also said the severity of crashes at those intersections is changing because of the cameras.

The 2009 Legislature approved a measure standardizing the use of red-light cameras throughout New Mexico and giving part of the fines to the state.

Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Las Cruces have red-light camera ordinances. Farmington declined to join them last year, with the mayor saying he’d rather hire more police officers.

Albuquerque has had cameras since October 2004; Las Cruces began its program last spring.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.