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Mayor Wants To Use Red Light Cameras To Catch Speeders

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A city of Chicago red light camera (Credit: CBS)

A city of Chicago red light camera (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Thursday that he’s pushing for state lawmakers to allow the city to use its red light cameras to catch speeding drivers near schools and parks.

The mayor said he wants to make sure people driving near schools or parks have a deterrent – a reason to obey the speed limit.

He said using red light cameras to catch speeders would be the best option.

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“This is about deterrence. That’s the number-one goal. It’s about deterrence. I want our kids to get to school and be in school safely,” Emanuel said. “If you’re a law-abiding citizen and you drive safely near a school, you don’t have anything to worry about.”

Emanuel said the city has done some studies that have found 25 percent of the cars driving near schools are speeding.

CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine asked the mayor how long it would be before speed cameras are everywhere.

Emanuel promised that won’t happen. Instead, existing red light cameras within a quarter mile of schools and parks would be modified and mobile cameras would be brought in near other schools and parks, only to make it safer for kids.

Asked if he pledged to keep the speed cameras off Lake Shore Drive and other areas away from schools, the mayor said, “Absolutely. This is all about schools and parks. It has nothing else … I hope I get no revenue out of it.

The mayor’s office is proposing legislation to modify existing red light cameras within a quarter mile of schools and parks, as well as to bring in portable units to ticket speeding motorists in school areas where there are no red light cameras.

Emanuel cited statistics about accidents around schools, like UIC College Prep, where three personal stories put the issue into perspective.

“I was hit by a car not too long ago. I was on my way to school,” said one young woman at the mayor’s press conference.

Ald. James Balcer (11th), who chairs the City Council Public Safety Committee, said he was hit by a car when he was 8 years old

And Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said, “I also got hit by a car in the Bronx, chasing a rubber ball out into the street.”

“The speed camera initiative is really a no brainer,” McCarthy added.

Parents picking up their children at STEM Magnet Academy on the Southwest Side Thursday afternoon agreed.

May Cheung said it was a good idea, “near schools especially, because there are a lot of kids crossing the street.”

Another driver said, “There have been some cars driving a little fast through here; faster than I would want.”

All weren’t so sure about using those cameras to ticket speeders elsewhere.

“I think the police should have the responsibility to do their job and they should do their job,” one woman said.

But, McCarthy hinted that speed cameras placed elsewhere could be on the horizon.

“This is really just a start and, if you think about it, what I would love to see is a network expanding as we go further,” he said.

For now, the proposed legislation – which must be approved by the General Assembly and signed by the governor – does not permit cameras to catch speeders anywhere but those so-called safety zones around schools and parks.

That law would have to be amended if the reach of those photographic speed traps were to be expanded.

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