City receives $624,000 from new ticket program

City receives $624,000 from new ticket program

Tickets far lower than ‘event’ totals

PAWTUCKET – Since the start of a new camera ticketing program last October, the city has taken in $624,680 in revenue beyond what is paid to private contractor Sensys Gatso.

Those funds go toward funding “ongoing city operations,” say officials. As of the end of January, there had been 38,701 citations issued for speeding or running red lights in zones where cameras have been installed since last Oct. 28, according to information provided to The Breeze by members of Mayor Donald Grebien’s administration.

Here are the total tickets for periods since the program went live Oct. 28, 2019:

• Oct. 28 to Nov. 9 – 3,164

• Nov. 10 to Nov. 23 – 10,360

• Nov. 24 to Dec. 7 – 5,721

• Dec. 8 to Dec. 21 – 6,974

• Dec. 22 to Dec. 31 – 1,480

• Jan. 1 to Jan. 15 – 3,473

• Jan. 16 to Jan. 30 – 7,529

Those totals were far lower than the violation “events” captured by camera. Once approaching about 10,000 violations per week, those numbers dropped substantially in January, including 5,088 incidents for the week of Jan. 13 (a couple cameras down), 4,647 the week of Jan. 10 (Monday holiday), 5,994 the week of Jan. 27, and 5,972 Feb. 3.

“As we continue to review early results, some of the speeds at which violators are passing through our schools are beyond unacceptable for the safety of our children,” said Wilder Arboleda, spokesman for Grebien. “While trends continue to improve, cameras have captured vehicles at a number of schools at very high speeds.”

The $624,680 gained through the program has some costs tied to it, including civilian overtime, police overtime, and an increase in court dates, all adding up to $159,622, according to Arboleda. It also only reflects payments made, and there are quite a number of tickets issued that haven’t been paid yet.

“The Police Department also anticipates additional IT needs related to the program, along with additional investment in upgrades to increase safety around the schools, including blinking warning lights,” he said. “Revenue has also been used to offset investment in public safety and unbudgeted expenses such as upgrades to the Fire Department’s communications equipment.”

According to data, the majority of the new revenue stream is not being funded by city residents, as preliminary numbers show that about 80 percent of violators receiving citations are not Pawtucket residents.

According to the administration, there is no restriction on how the city can use the money that comes in through the program.

Even if all 38,701 tickets issued were of the $50 variety for speeding in school zones, and didn’t account for $85 violations for running red lights, that would still be nearly $2 million in overall revenue to the city and Sensys Gatso, not counting operational costs.

According to a contract signed by the city with Sensys Gatso in December 2018, the company receives a fixed fee of $1,800 per red light camera per month, plus $15.40 of each $85 notice of violation, and $2,500 monthly for each school zone speed camera, plus $7.30 for each $85 notice of violation.

There are 15 red light camera locations, plus nine camera locations in school zones, but because a much higher volume of tickets is generated in school zones, red light cameras prove much more expensive to operate.

“The Pawtucket Police Department continues its diligent work to ensure the safety of students, teachers and parents through the traffic safety camera program by making vehicle operators aware of the need to slow down,” said Arboleda.

“Since we are nearly four months into ticketing, it is too early to indicate the program’s effectiveness, but preliminary numbers indicate that the program is trending in the right direction,” he said. “Numbers continue to slowly decline, but we are still not satisfied with the amount of speeding that takes place around our schools during school hours.”

Explaining the reason why actual ticket numbers are so much lower than alleged infractions caught by cameras, Arboleda said, “we have to ensure that it’s spot-on.” For instance, if there’s a license plate that looks like it’s a Rhode Island plate, but someone could challenge it in court, then no ticket would be issued. Some infractions would have extenuating circumstances, while still others would be for local public safety vehicles running through lights or speeding to get to a scene, he said.

Explaining why officials are finding a trend in the right direction, he said one could take the total tickets for the entire month of January, at about 11,000, and find that it’s much lower than the average of last November and December based on the total of 38,000 tickets issued.

For some weeks, such as the first week of January and last week of December, totals are low due to school not being in session and the cameras not being functional.