Eye on the streets

Published 10:40 pm Saturday, October 3, 2009

A red light camera program could be on its way to Suffolk.

It’s too early to tell when or if the program will materialize, but police chief Thomas Bennett is investigating the idea, he told council members at last month’s retreat.

“We’re in the beginning stages of evaluating whether or not this would be a good thing for Suffolk,” Bennett told the council.

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Council members didn’t have a lot to say either way about the proposal during the retreat, but Bennett elaborated more on the project Friday.

“I don’t know if it’s ever going to materialize,” Bennett said. “Right now, we’re doing research, looking at whether or not it would even be applicable in Suffolk, period.”

“There’s a whole lot of issues to look at.”

Red light cameras are mounted at intersections and wired to the stoplights. The cameras snap photos of license plates on cars that enter the intersection after the light turns red, and owners later receive a ticket in the mail.

Virginia Beach recently has received criticism for its red light camera program, because it costs more than it brings in. Officials there, however, say the goal is to change driver behavior, not to make money.

Other Hampton Roads cities also are making plans to install the cameras.

Bennett said much more research still is needed to determine if the cameras will be useful in Suffolk.

“It takes a little while,” he said. “You have to do traffic engineering studies before you even begin to think about doing it.”

Bennett wouldn’t name intersections he had in mind, saying those would be determined by the traffic study. The study also would examine the issue of whether Suffolk has enough traffic to make the program financially feasible.