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County commissioner from West Kendall skeptical of traffic cameras

Kendall will be one of the areas most affected when Miami-Dade installs cameras to fine motorists who run red lights, County Commissioner Juan Carlos Zapata said on Tuesday.

“The county is adopting a policy that more than public security had obvious economic motivations,” Zapata said. “This is about the interests of the camera industry to continue growing and of governments to raise more revenue from the community.”

Kendall, home to about 300,000 residents, is an unincorporated area in southern Miami-Dade, whose roads are administered by the county, including the busy Kendall Drive (Southwest 88th Street). Zapata’s district includes much of West Kendall.

The bidding process for installing cameras on these streets began earlier this month.

Zapata said Tuesday that his strong opposition to cameras is due to the absence of a study proving that the camera system really curbs traffic accidents.

“I insist that this is a policy that only serves to raise more money from the public,” Zapata said. “I believe there are other practical alternatives such as stationing empty patrol cars in the intersections where there is a high incidence of accidents, or promoting the physical presence of police officers. ... I will do all I can to limit the impact of these cameras in Kendall.”

Yet Zapata is not the only one who has publicly criticized the county’s initiative.

County Commission chairwoman Rebeca Sosa said on Tuesday that the community deserves to know the statistical results of the cameras that have been operating in several county cities.

“I am not fond of cameras,” said Sosa, who voted against the proposal. “Cameras were installed in several municipalities under two arguments: First, they were going to add revenue to the cities; and second, they were going to reduce the number of traffic accidents. I believe people have the right to know whether all of that is true.”

Sosa also said she objects to fines imposed on motorists who turn right on a red light.

In October, Hialeah mayor Carlos Hernández expressed his objection to cameras on traffic lights. He even sent letters to county Mayor Carlos Giménez, and to Sosa, communicating his concerns.

Shortly after taking office in Hialeah in 2011, Hernández ordered the cancellation of the contract with American Traffic Solution (ATS), one of the companies that operate the camera system in several cities in the country. As a result of the contract with Hialeah, cameras were installed in 2010 under the Julio Robaina administration.

Giménez has said that the bill to install cameras on the streets under county administration came up a couple of years ago, but he recused himself from the debate because one of his children worked as an ATS representative. His son no longer works for the company.

“Those cameras have become another form of tax to take money from the community,” Hernández has said. “In the end this practice has made possible sending hundreds of millions of dollars to companies that operate outside the local economy and to private companies out of the state.

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