Thursday, July 25, 2024

Red light cameras in Wilmington — more than meets the eye

Red-light cameras are operated throughout Wilmington by a private company, American Traffic Solutions. (Port City Daily photo/MICHAEL PRAATS)
Red-light cameras are operated throughout Wilmington by a private company, American Traffic Solutions. (Port City Daily photo/MICHAEL PRAATS)

WILMINGTON — Red light cameras in Wilmington are said to help reduce accidents and deter red light running in the city and according to state law, all fines collected are to go to New Hanover County Schools – but that’s not before a private company takes its cut.

The Wilmington City Council will vote Tuesday night to approve a contract renewal that will cost nearly $500,000 annually to pay for “automated red-light enforcement services,” more commonly known as red-light cameras.

Malissa Talbert, communications manager for the City of Wilmington said that only 10 percent of the ticket goes towards the estimated cost of $480,000 – the rest is paid by the City of Wilmington and New Hanover County tax payers.

“Only $186K came from city’s property-taxed funded General Fund last year tax and only $170K for this year. The $480k is paid from the 10% collections retained by the city, with the difference paid equally by the city’s general fund and the County funds,” Talbert said in an email.

According to the City Council’s agenda, the item has been placed on the consent agenda and will not require additional discussion, unless a council member requests it be formally considered.

The contract authorizes the private company American Traffic Solutions to provide its services for the annual cost of $480,000, and according to City Manager Sterling Cheatham, “these services continue to deter red light running and resulting crashes in our city.”

According to the contract, “City shall pay to contractor $22.50 for each $50 civil penalty collected and deposited in a designated city bank account.”

Since state law requires 90 percent of the money collected go directly to the local county school board and only allows for 10 percent of the money to pay for services, the city and county pay the remaining amount of money from a separate fund.

“The net proceeds from the service (approximately $900,000 annually) are, in
keeping with State law, turned over to the New Hanover County Schools, according to Cheatham’s documents.

Talbert provided Port City Daily with information contradicting this statement to clarify how funds are distributed.

“The proceeds provided are GROSS, not NET. The payment to the schools is 90% of collections regardless of the cost to provide the service. The city can only retain 10% to cover costs of the services provided,” Talbert said.

ATS is also responsible for dealing with 98 percent of all citizen inquiries, and must collect 80 percent of all citations issued.

The city also requires 90 percent of all photos taken be able to be developed as citations.

It is also worth noting that according to the City of Wilmington’s SafeLight program, a warrant can not be issued for failure to pay a red-light camera ticket, but if enough accrue, the violator could be taken to small claims court.

There are 13 locations for the red-light cameras and they are as follows:

  • Eastbound Market Street at New Centre Drive
  • Westbound Market Street at 23rd Street
  • Southbound Wooster Street at Third Street
  • Northbound Seventeenth Street at Dawson Street
  • Eastbound Dawson Street at Third Street
  • Westbound Wooster Street at Seventeenth Street
  • Northbound College Road at 17th Street
  • Eastbound Dawson Street at Sixteenth Street
  • Westbound Wrightsville Ave at Colonial Drive
  • Southbound Sixteenth Street at Wooster Street
  • Northbound Carolina Beach Road at Southern Boulevard
  • Westbound Market Street at Seventeenth Street
  • Northbound Third Street at Dawson Street

On the map: locations of Wilmington’s red light cameras.

Editors Note: This story has been updated to more accurately present the contract’s details.

[mappress mapid=”1097″]

Supporting Documents for traffic cameras in Wilmington by Michael James on Scribd

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