A Gilbert legislator seeks to ban enforcement cameras

PHOENIX – A Gilbert lawmaker wants to ban photo-enforcement cameras across the state, saying they generate money for the company that makes them and cities that use them, but do little to keep the streets safe.

“It’s actually been shown in many areas to cause more accidents than it prevents,” Rep. Travis Grantham said. “It’s turned into a massive revenue generating tool … which is why towns like Paradise Valley are so interested in keeping photo radar.”

The Republican legislator first proposed House Bill 2208 in 2016 because he said photo-enforcement cameras not only make traffic less safe, they pose constitutional problems and serve solely as a revenue generator.

“They’re not only affecting the citizens of their town, they’re affecting everyone that has to go through their town to go from Point A to Point B,” Grantham said.

At least one Valley police department, however, considers the cameras a means of increasing police presence on the streets.

“Photo enforcement can take the place of several officers,” said Lt. Michael P. Cole, a department spokesman. “And it’s a very cost effective tool to reduce speeds and increase traffic safety while not having to add more officers. That can be more expensive to taxpayers and the residents.”

The cameras help slow drivers and prevent accidents, he said.

“With the population increase, the distraction increases in town,” Cole said. “We had 208 accidents compared to 400 (accidents) 30 years ago. After we put those speed signs up, our traffic citations went down 40 to 60 percent in those locations. For us, that’s a win. For us, it’s all about behavior modification. Slowing drivers down.”

Similar bills to ban cameras in Arizona cities have been unsuccessful.

But Grantham said these cameras don’t serve their purpose.

“Any time you privatize law enforcement, you’re really sensitizing bad behavior,” he said. “What you basically have right now is having private industry profiting off of their ability of issuing more and more tickets.”

The bill has passed some House committees but has not made it to the Senate.

“This legislation comes up every year,” Cole said, “so it’s not a new thing for us. What we really want to get across is, for us this is about traffic safety, it’s not about revenue.”

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