Edgeville Buzz

As Red Light Cameras Face Scrutiny, Which Edgewater Intersections Had The Most Violations?

red_light_camera-1Call it the workings of two very different types of machines.

Even as Chicago’s former red light camera operator, Redflex Traffic Systems, remains under fire for an alleged $2 million bribery scheme, the red light cameras themselves continue to operate, bringing in more than $500 million in traffic fines since the program began in 2003.

According to the Chicago Department of Transportation’s website, there are 296 red light cameras in Chicago, and some of them monitor five intersections in Edgewater.

In late August, the Chicago Tribune reported that Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration sued Redflex for more than $300 million. The lawsuit claims the entire red light camera program was built on bribery at City Hall.

“The City suffered damages in reliance of Redflex’s false statements that it had not engaged in bribery or attempted to bribe any employee of the City,” the 20-page lawsuit said, as reported by the Tribune.

Redflex’s former chief executive, Karen Finley, pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges on Aug. 20. She admitted to being part of a conspiracy to bribe a former top city transportation executive who she says helped Redflex obtain the contract.

That city transportation executive, John Bills, will stand trial in federal court in January.

Martin O’Malley, a longtime friend of Bills, admitted to collecting or distributing the proceeds of the alleged scheme. O’Malley acknowledged in his guilty plea last year that the alleged scheme earned the two men at least $1,500 for each new red light camera installed in Chicago, the Tribune reported.

“As the CEO of Redflex Traffic Systems Inc., Karen Finley funneled cash and other personal financial benefits to a City of Chicago official and his friend, knowing that the payments would help persuade the city to award red-light camera contracts to Redflex,” according to a plea agreement, the FBI reported on its website.

“The benefits included golf trips, hotels and meals, as well as hiring the city official’s friend as a highly compensated contractor for Redflex,” the plea agreement said. “The benefits flowed over a nine-year period, from 2003 to 2011, during which time the city expanded the Digital Automated Red Light Enforcement Program by awarding millions of dollars in contracts to Phoenix-based Redflex.”

The latest lawsuit will use the testimony of a whistleblower, a former executive vice president at Redflex who says his bosses ordered him to help orchestrate the alleged bribery scheme. Redflex fired executive Aaron Rosenberg, who filed a lawsuit under seal in Cook County Circuit Court more than a year ago.

The lawsuit filed by the mayor’s administration seeks three times the amount of money that Redflex collected on the contract both before and after Emanuel fired the company. It also seeks a civil penalty of up to $10,000 for each time Redflex made a false statement to the city, the Tribune said.

Meanwhile, the red light cameras themselves have been described as being both useful and unfair.

In a 2014 investigation, the Tribune documented how thousands of drivers were tagged during unexplained ticket surges at malfunctioning red light cameras. The newspaper said that Emanuel, among other things, shut down dozens of cameras and promised to improve oversight.

The city offered to review the tickets of some drivers caught in the unexplained ticket spikes. Less than 200 tickets were refunded.

Yet the red light cameras have also been used to document unsafe traffic patterns. In May, ABC7 I-Team exposed how the cameras caught hundreds of Chicago school buses barreling through red lights and/or speeding down Chicago streets.

Some of those violations took place in Edgewater, at the corner of Hollywood and Sheridan.

Here is a list of the red light cameras in Edgewater, their locations, and the number of violations they have generated mostly between July 1, 2014, and Sept. 9, 2015. This information was gathered from data.cityofchicago.org:

  • Sheridan/Hollywood had 11,339 camera violations between July 1, 2014, and Sept. 9, 2015. The official address of the red light camera is 1000 W. Hollywood Ave.
  • Broadway/Sheridan/Devon had 4,309 camera violations between July 1, 2014, and Sept. 9, 2015. Because the cameras monitor both eastbound and southbound directions, the cameras are actually at two different corners. 1200 W. Devon Ave. had 1,258 violations between July 1, 2014, and Sept. 9, 2015, and 6400 N. Sheridan Road had 3,051 violations between July 1, 2014, and Sept. 9, 2015.
  • Ridge/Clark had 4,021 camera violations between July 1, 2014, and Sept. 9, 2015. The address is 5930 N. Clark St.
  • Foster/Broadway had 2,691 camera violations between July 1, 2014, and Sept. 9, 2015. This is for the addresses of 5200 N. Broadway St. and 1200 W. Foster Ave. The Foster address had 810 violations between Aug. 6, 2014, and Sept. 9, 2015. The Broadway address had 1,881 violations between July 1, 2014, and Sept. 9, 2015.
  • Foster/Sheridan had 1,144 camera violations between July 1, 2014, and Sept. 9, 2015. There were 458 violations at 5200 N. Sheridan Road between July 1, 2014, and Sept. 9, 2015. There were 686 violations at 1000 W. Foster Ave. between July 1, 2014, and Sept. 9, 2015.

Dan Luna, chief of staff for 48th Ward Alderman Harry Osterman, did not respond to requests for comments.

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