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Cams Will Get Drivers Coming and Going

July 11, 2006|Andrew Blankstein | Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles officials think they have a new way to catch motorists who run red lights.

The city, whose previous red-light camera systems have had poor picture quality and other problems, plans to install new digital camera equipment at 32 intersections over the next 18 months.

With the old red-light camera system, about half the tickets issued to motorists were eventually tossed out because the pictures could not conclusively show who was driving the car.

The flaw: The cameras photographed only the front of the vehicles that passed through the intersections. And if the car didn't have a front license plate, which was the case 15% to 20% of the time, "you were out of luck," said city transportation engineer Glenn Ogura.

The new camera system, developed by Nestor Traffic Systems Inc., marks a major improvement -- at least from the city's perspective.

The system uses high-resolution digital video pictures of motorists and also shoots the vehicle from the front and back, improving the chances of recording the license plate, Ogura said.

The cameras will be placed at nine city intersections by the end of August.

They are: La Brea Avenue and Rodeo Road; Laurel Canyon Boulevard and Victory Boulevard; De Soto Avenue and Roscoe Boulevard; National Boulevard and Sepulveda Boulevard; Olympic Boulevard and Soto Street; Figueroa Street and Imperial Highway; Figueroa and Florence Avenue; Griffin Avenue and North Main Street; and Beverly Boulevard and Western Avenue.

The cost of the cameras is estimated at $8,125 per intersection. Once they are all up and running, the annual cost is expected to be as much as $3.1 million.

City Councilman Jack Weiss said the system marks a major step in dealing with red-light runners, but he expects future intersection cameras to provide even better close-ups.

"For now, only a limited few will have their head shots provided by the city," Weiss said. "But if the program is successful, hopefully in the future we can have more of a casting call.... Technology is going to catch up with dangerous drivers."

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