Smile, You're on Camera

Cameras Catching Red-Light Runners
S.F. Issues More Than 400 Tickets to Traffic Violators

Tuesday, Dec. 31, 1996 · Page A 1

By Rachel Gordon OF THE EXAMINER STAFF

San Francisco’s electronic cops have nailed more than 400 red-light
runners – including a Muni bus.

Surveillance cameras, which are triggered to start shooting when a
vehicle jumps a red light, operate at three intersections: Seventh and
Mission streets; 19th and Holloway avenues; and Fifth and Howard streets.
Another is being tested at 19th Avenue and Sloat Boulevard. The one-year
pilot program, costing $250,000, kicked off in October.

“The program’s in its infancy, and it’s working pretty well,” said
Officer Ben McAlister, a San Francisco Police Department motorcycle cop
who helps run the program, on Monday. “The more cameras we have, the more
tickets.”

The latest statistics show that in November, alone, 448 citations were
mailed out to owners of vehicles caught on film in San Francisco, where
red-light running has become as much a part of the cityscape as pierced
cafe workers and Sunset District fog.

Department of Parking and Traffic engineer Jack Fleck said that even
more people had been photographed going through the red signals, but
neither they nor their automobile could be properly identified. The
cameras focus on the vehicle’s front license plate and the driver, and a
citation is mailed to the vehicle owner.

McAllister said a Muni bus and a handful of other city-owned vehicles
used by the Department of Public Works had been nabbed, and noted: “They
aren’t going to get a break from us.”

Sharyn Saslafsky, Muni’s chief of communications, said she wasn’t
aware of any Muni drivers’ being ticketed by the surveillance
cameras.

She noted the driver was responsible for paying the $104 moving
violation fine and could face discipline, ranging from a written warning
to dismissal.

Supervisor Susan Leal, legislative sponsor of the red-light camera
project, said it had already proved its worth – and she wants more. Leal
hopes to see cameras at 20 intersections by the end of 1997.

“More and more people are going to get the message that it will cost
them to go through a red light,” she said. “We can’t have a cop on every
corner, and this is a good way to modify people’s behavior.”

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