City sees 19,000 speed camera violations since mid-September

City sees 19,000 speed camera violations since mid-September

Red-light camera spots also remain busy

PAWTUCKET – Despite speed cameras being on in only four school zones this academic year, the city has seen a total of 18,870 speed violations pile up from Sept. 14 to Oct. 27.

The schools where classes are happening in-person and thus have speed cameras on are Jenks Middle School, Varieur Elementary, Potter-Burns Elementary, and Nathanael Greene Elementary. Potter-Burns and Nathanael Greene are located on the two far busier roads of those four, Newport Avenue and Smithfield Avenue.

The 18,870 figure doesn’t necessarily equate to that same number of tickets and fines, said Wilder Arboleda, spokesman for Mayor Donald Grebien. Due to the pandemic, court dates for many of those who have received tickets haven’t come up yet, he said.

Aside from speed cameras in the vicinity of the four school zones, 11 red light cameras remain operational, said Chief of Police Tina Goncalves. In addition to the 18,870 speed violations, there have been 1,130 violations caught by cameras at red lights since Sept. 14 when schools came back in session.

“The Pawtucket Police Department works extremely closely with our vendor to ensure that each violation is properly vetted,” she said.

The red-light camera violations were down somewhat from the summer. According to a previous story, there were some 500 more violations over a shorter period of time, or 1,601 total, from Aug. 21 to Sept. 21.

A violation captured by the Pawtucket’s red-light camera program comes with an $85 fine, compared to $50 for speeding in school zones.

The cameras in school zones had been turned off after students were sent home due to the pandemic in the spring, and the cameras in zones where schools remain closed are still off. With school not in session, the stated reason for the cameras, improving safety for schoolchildren, is negated.

The Breeze reported back in February, just prior to the start of the pandemic, that the city had taken in more than $600,000 from the new camera program beyond what was paid to its private contractor since it began Oct. 28, 2019, all or nearly all of that from speed zones as red-light cameras were still coming online. There were nearly 39,000 tickets given out from October through February.

The numbers from the past month are similar to those numbers earlier this year when the cameras were on, though it’s difficult to say how many of the 18,870 violations will end up sending ticket revenue to the city.

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. The company gets its monthly fees for all cameras that are operational, said Arboleda.

By contract, Sensys Gatso provides billing services for police on all of the violations from the camera. The contract states, “After the city’s review and approval of a violation as set forth in Section 4.3, Sensys Gatso shall issue a notice of violation with images and data related to the notice of violation by mail within ten days. The citation shall include images of the alleged traffic law infraction, and shall be in a form mutually agreed-upon by the parties.”

“The Pawtucket Police Department continues to focus on ensuring the safety of our students, teachers and parents now that some of the schools are back in session,” said Goncalves in a statement. “Speed cameras will be operational in the vicinity of any schools that have in-person learning.”

Goncalves is asking that everyone continue to exercise caution while driving near all schools, whether operational or not, as residents are walking through the streets more as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic’s impacts.