Stop light enforcement cameras near implementation

Published 5:19 pm Tuesday, January 23, 2024

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Many in Suffolk have been anticipating the implementation of red light enforcement cameras ever since the city’s school bus stop arm and work, and school zone cameras went live in late 2023. Red light enforcement cameras will be installed at nine intersections across the city. The initial intersection, Lake Prince Dr. and Pruden Blvd, is ready to enter a 30-day warning period which will start on Feb. 5. During the warning period, those who violate the red light rules will receive a cautionary letter sent to their home address. Following the warning period, violators will be faced with a $50.00 fine.

Suffolk Director of Public Works Robert Lewis told the Suffolk City Council Wednesday, Jan. 17, that some red light cameras are still “under construction” as they are waiting on electrical power. 

“The good news is I got notification just before I came in today, the very first one of those had a meter set today, that’s at Pruden and Lake Prince Drive. So again, in the very near future, we’ll bring that online. We’re working on the rest of them. The gentleman from Dominion Power is committed to me. He’s working the rest of the list to try to get those meters set so those cameras can operate,” Lewis said. “I will remind you one of the requirements is once we bring those online, we have to do a 30-day warning period in which we issue the warning notices to the public before we can begin actual enforcement, and prior to doing that, we will certainly do a very extensive public notification and outreach to give people warning that those are in place.”

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The eight locations slated for the stop light enforcement cameras are;

  • Holland Road at West End of Suffolk Bypass
  • Harbour View Boulevard at Bridge Road
  • College Drive at Bridge Road
  • North Main Street at West Constance Road
  • Pruden Boulevard at Lake Prince Drive
  • Shoulders Hill Road at Bridge Road (After roadway project construction)
  • Portsmouth Boulevard at Nansemond Parkway
  • Godwin Boulevard at Kings Fork Road

Interim Police Chief James Buie and Lewis also updated the mayor and council on the current school bus stop arm and work and school zone cameras. Penalties paid through the course of May 15 to Nov. 15, 2023, saw $2,280,928 in vendor operational cost, while Suffolk received $5,277,637.

Lewis followed up on ongoing concerns about what the city will do with the funds raised from camera operations.

“ … Again, the whole idea was to try and put this money back into improving public safety around our city,” Lewis said. “One of the complaints we’ve heard quite a bit is our school flashers do not always seem to come on and come off at exactly the proper time.”

Lewis also said that other safety programs, such as improvements to pedestrian crosswalks, mile marker signage on Route 58, guardrail installation, sidewalk construction and repairs, streetlight enhancement and additions, blight abatement and neighborhood safety support, have been suggested.

“My staff is very much in the process right now of evaluating these and trying to work up cost estimates and effectiveness estimates that we can bring back to, again, decide on what the final locations that we’re going to utilize these funds for,” Lewis said.

Buie provided statistics for total issued citations, requested court hearings, and the number of citations sent to residents of Suffolk. 

The number of issued citations for May 15 through Nov. 15 totaled 133,755, with 1,112, or .83%, of the citations challenged in court. 26,316, or 19.67%, were Suffolk residents. 

“The purpose of all this is safety. Suffolk Police Department works hard each and every day to ensure that our motoring public can move through our city safely,” Buie said. “The deployment of this technology is specifically focused on slowing traffic in potentially dangerous areas to keep our workers, keep our children, keep our citizens and our visitors safe while they’re in our city.”

Other issues were brought up during the Council Member’s question and answer period with Buie and Lewis, including light obstruction, camera time operations, and court cases challenging the tickets. Likewise, Council Member Roger Fawcett talked about recent comments and concerns about the money from citations.

“It’s going to be earmarked for public safety issues, for corrections. We have a Public safety committee that’s working diligently, I know I’m on it, the Mayor’s on it, to come up with ways to utilize those funds to improve the safety for the public,” Fawcett said. “We’re not dipping into the general fund, we’re not putting this into the general fund to be used for other road projects or other things … We’re truly using this funding for safety, for the public and we will continue to use that.”

Buie highlighted statistics for each camera zone during his presentation.

Holland Rd and Pruden Blvd work zones 

Since the project’s opening in June 2023, the work zone has generated 12,595 and 12,823 citations on Holland and Pruden, respectively. In December 2023, both work zones decreased to a total of 576 and 933 citations. 

Nansemond-Suffolk Academy school zones 

As school zone cameras came online in August 2023, the number of citations for the NSA Pruden campus was 608, while the Harbour View campus generated 382. December 2023 ended with a lower tally of 283 and 383 at the respective campuses.

Elephant Fork, Florence Bowser and Nansemond Parkway Elementary School

September 2023 opened with citations tallying at 474 for Elephants Fork, 161 at Florence Bowser, and 164 at Nansemond Parkway. December also saw significant reductions in the number of citations generated. Elephant Fork generated 373, Florence Bowser issued 87, and Nansemond Parkway Elementary mailed out 128 citations.

Mack Benn Jr., Oakland and Creekside Elementary School 

Once school returned to session in September, Mack Benn Jr. Elementary generated 89 citations, Oakland Elementary School was significantly higher, with 1,053 and Creekside Elementary issued 839. In December, each school experienced a significant reduction in citations issued. Mack Benn Jr. ended at 32, Oakland Elementary was reduced to 582, and Creekside Elementary dropped to 244.

John Yeates Middle School, John F. Kennedy Middle School, and Kings Fork Middle School/High School

Once again, as school returned in September, citation numbers were at their highest to date. John Yates Middle School issued 252 citations, John F. Kennedy Middle School generated 712, and the King’s Fork Middle and High School zone had 730 citations. As in the other cases, by December, citation numbers continued to decrease with  218, 252, and 381 in the same order.

Mayor Michael D. Duman also noted having conversations with City Manager Albert S. Moor II regarding having the money be a part of the community safety fund, with decisions on how funds are spent coming from the Suffolk Public Safety Committee and the upcoming Public Safety Committee portal for citizen input.

“Virtually every department head and organization throughout the city that is directly concerned with safety, from the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office to the Police Department, the Fire Department, the [City] Manager’s office, Public Works, the Sheriff’s Department, the jail, everyone who has an interest and a responsibility for public safety will be in one room at one time,” Duman said. “So that’s one piece, but the important piece is not up and running yet and that’s the public input … Once we get our portal up through the Public Safety Committee, it will allow our citizens to go online and make suggestions as to what they would like to see in their neighborhood, what they think would work in their neighborhood …”