10/17/2019Illinois Red Light Cameras Are A Billion-Dollar Enterprise
Illinois Policy Institute research found red light cameras have generated $1 billion in Illinois since 2008.
The Illinois Policy Institute on Monday released a report documenting the rise of red light cameras as a billion-dollar enterprise in Illinois. The non-partisan watchdog group issued freedom of information requests to collect financial data from each of the ninety municipalities that allow private companies to issue automated citations in the Land of Lincoln.
Between 2008 and July 2019, red light camera contractors in these jurisdictions collected a total of $1,096,149,523 in revenue. Chicago, once home to the world's largest municipal red light camera program, accounted for two-thirds of that revenue, with $719,709,863 generated. The Windy City's photo enforcement program spread rapidly because the municipal contractor, Redflex Traffic Systems of Australia, bribed Chicago deputy transportation commissioner John Bills, rewarding him with a cash bonus each time a new camera was added. Bills is serving a ten-year prison sentence with a scheduled release date in June 2024. In response to the federal bribery convictions, Chicago cut back on the number of cameras used and the number of tickets issued, but the photo ticketing industry has looked to the suburbs to pick up the slack.
The number of cameras operating throughout the state has grown steadily, with 346 statewide cameras in 2008 expanding to 607 today. The suburbs and Chicago now have a roughly equal number of cameras. The rapid spread of automated ticketing machines in the suburbs has become the subject of another federal corruption investigation. This time, another red light camera contractor, Safespeed, has been identified in search warrants probing connections between the company and local politicians.
"Safespeed maintains a red-light camera contract with [the village of] Summit, and employs as a consultant Patrick Doherty, the chief of staff for Cook County Commissioner Jeff Tobolski, who also serves as mayor of McCook," the insitute researchers explained. "As a consultant, Doherty receives a percentage of the revenue from tickets issued through Safespeed in municipalities where he lands the company contracts."
The report referenced a recent study by Case Western Reserve University to question the safety benefit of photo ticketing in light of the billion-dollar investment in motorist funds. In 2010, an analysis by the University of Illinois at Chicago concluded the devices did not reduce accidents.