Your traffic camera questions answered

Cedar Rapids police answered 55 of the more than 450 questions submitted during an hour-long live chat at and on Tuesday. Hot topics included the revenue generated from the cameras, the placement of the mobile speed camera and how to contest tickets.

Below is a sampling of the live chat:

Isn’t it illegal for the vehicle with the mobile speed camera to park along the shoulder of Interstate 380 and in No Parking zones?

Capt. Steve O’Konek: Enforcement vehicles may park stop or stand, contrary to those restrictions, while conducting official business. Not unlike a trooper in the median checking speeds. The reality is, is that you have no legal right to violate the law and we have no requirement to alert you before we enforce the law. We will be (marking) the mobile speed camera vehicle in the future and posting location (of the mobile speed camera) online.

Is there any way to dispute a red light/speed camera ticket?

Lt. Jeff Hembera: When you receive a notice of violation in the mail, there are instructions for either paying the citation or appealing the citation. To appeal, you contact the company as stated on the notice, and you will be given a time to appear at the Police Station to meet with a Hearing Officer. If the Hearing Officer finds against you, you have the final option of appealing to civil court.

Will the cameras enforce the law against drivers going 1 to 5 mph over the speed limit?

O’Konek: There is some tolerance built into the system. Contrary to what has been said, we have not issued any citations to anyone for 1 to 5 mph over. We recognize there are variances in speedometers.

The cameras have already brought in more than $83,000 in profit. How will that money be used?

O’Konek: In very simple terms, it goes into the city’s general fund and is tracked as revenue for the Police Department. The revenue offsets the taxpayer responsibility. We do not get an increase in our budget. Rather, our budget is reduced based on the amount of revenue we project to generate.

Are city vehicles receiving tickets as well?

O’Konek: We have had city vehicles observed violating the systems. Those violations are sent to the agency to pay the citation. In all cases of officers violating system, a commander reviews them to determine if they were on a call for service or had some legal reason to violate the system. If not, they will either pay the citation or be subject to internal disciplinary action. We have had police officers receive citations who were off duty. They are subject to the same laws as everyone else.

How much money from each violation goes to the vendor?

O’Konek: The contractor, Gatso USA, receives $30 per violation (30% of red light camera citations). The city receives the rest.

Will you adjust the automated enforcement system when the winter season comes?

Hembera: In the event of serious inclement weather, such as a blizzard or an ice storm, we will certainly see violations. In these instances, we will notify the company to stop enforcement until the roads are back to a normal condition for driving.

If the cameras record an accident, can the footage be used in court proceedings?

O’Konek: Yes. They can, and we have pulled footage of crashes. They have aided in our investigation of the accidents when we have conflicting stories.

Why didn’t Cedar Rapids fix faulty intersections instead of install red light cameras?

O’Konek: We have looked at all the possible strategies to reduce crashes. Roadway design is a way to do that. At the intersections where we have red light systems, the roadway design is as good as it can be. First Avenue and Collins Road is a high-accident intersection, and certainly a candidate for a system. The roadway is under construction to fix it. We will hold off on a system to see if the design change reduces crashes. If it doesn’t, we may need to install a system. We hope the design works.

Some people have received citations for speeding in an area where speed is restricted “when children are present.” Can you explain the law?

O’Konek: We feel the school zone speeds apply when school is in session. “When children are present” is confusing. We will be updating the ordinance to make it clearer, and this should be done before school goes in session. We will not be deploying the speed systems in school zones until it is clarified.

It is my understanding that we have the right to face our accuser in court? How is that justified in these cases?

O’Konek: The accuser is the officer who approved the violation not the camera that captured the evidence. If you do go to court, the officer will testify and the city will present evidence as to the violation.

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