Cedar Rapids Traffic Cameras: Three Years, Nearly $15 Million Later

By Chris Earl, Reporter

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - New data shows that the number of Cedar Rapids' traffic camera citations has dropped slightly from 2011 to 2012, the first two complete years of records.

A KCRG-TV9/Gazette investigation into the 283,266 citations that have been issued since early 2010 reveals the millions of dollars still flowing into the city and the thousands of people cited every month.

-Click here to search the ticket database-

"It still just amazes me that people in Cedar Rapids and Linn County are still getting the violations," said Sgt. Cristy Hamblin of the Cedar Rapids Police Department.

Who are the violators? In 2011, 64% of the violators were from in-state and, last year, 61% of the citations were issued to drivers with Iowa addresses.

To narrow it down even more, Linn County drivers make up 30% of those ticketed. Duane Matthess, of Cedar Rapids, is one of them.

Earlier this year, Matthess was flagged on a Saturday morning, running a red light at Edgewood Road and 42nd Street. "It was a little shocking because I had no clue where I got it and had no idea where it was until we opened it," said Matthess of the $75 fine, which he said was his third since the cameras went live in 2010.

In June of that year, GATSO installed the cameras on Interstate 380.

As of March 31, 85.8% of the violations have been issued for speeding on I-380. The more than 130,000 violations have resulted in $18.3 million dollars in billed citations in less than three years. The cameras in both northbound and southbound I-380, north of downtown Cedar Rapids, account for more than $11 million of the billings.

The speed threshold to trigger a speeding violation on I-380 still appears to be 67 miles per hour, 12 over the limit along that stretch near downtown. No citations were issued to drivers clocked at 66 or slower. "Just imagine if we reduced it by five," said Hamblin, who said if the threshold were lowered, then she would agree with those who insist the speed cameras are only revenue driven.

A look at the financial end of the traffic cameras reveals just how much has flowed into Cedar Rapids. Money paid in, as of March 31, totaled nearly $14.9 million. GATSO takes a cut of $30 per ticket, leaving the police department with a net revenue of $9,054,750, according to the data provided to KCRG-TV9.

"It offsets the tax base for Cedar Rapids," said Hamblin. She added the money goes to pay for specialized rifles for officers and flashing lights in school zones.

Yet there is also a vast amount of money that has not been paid to the city. Traffic camera violations are not listed on a driver's record and the city employes a collection agency to track down bad debt.

The data also reveals 63,353 unpaid violations, totaling $5,078,225 in unpaid citations now marked as "bad debt".

Some have racked up tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid traffic citations, including one Cedar Rapids woman with 186 unpaid violations to her name, totaling nearly $16,000.

Overall, the violations were down about 10% from 2011 to 2012, the only two full calendar years with live traffic cameras. That doesn't slow down the mail from violators from out of town, who will often write the Cedar Rapids Police Department in frustration over receiving a ticket in the mail.

Ruthann Brekke, of Rochester, Minn., said she and her husband, Frank, were driving through Cedar Rapids on March 22. Brekke said they only remember driving with the flow of traffic and, weeks later, a $75 ticket arrived at their mailbox 200 miles away. Brekke said her husband wanted to protest it on constitutional grounds and added this was "not very good" for Iowa tourism. "I, personally, was creeped out," write Brekke. "The thought of being photographed without our knowledge totally gave me the creeps."

The Cedar Rapids Police Department does hold a session, on the first Thursday of each month, where people cited can protest their tickets. For thousands of people who live far away, this is an option that isn't very effective for cost or for time.

"Some of my favorites are from out-of-state that say, I will never come to Cedar Rapids again, which is fine, that's their right," said Hamblin. "I have to remind them other cities in the state of Iowa have the cameras."

Total Violations:
  • 2010-March 31, 2013: 283,266
  • 2010: 64,781
  • *2011: 104,542 (8,711 average per month)
  • *2012: 95,748 (7,978)
  • 2013: 18,195 (6,065)
    *Years with data for all twelve months

    By Camera Location
  • Interstate 380: $18,297,075 (243,322 violations)
  • Edgewood & 42nd Street NE: $538,425 (6,168)
  • 1st Avenue & 10th Street East: $404,250 (4,970)
  • 2nd Avenue & 3rd Street SW: $342,150 (4,031)
  • Williams Blvd. & 16th Avenue SW: $299,275 (3,600)
  • 1st Avenue & L Avenue West: $285,640 (3,209)
  • Center Point Road & Collins Road NE: $245,625 (2,772)
  • 2nd Avenue & 6th Street SW: $104,200 (1,143)
  • 2nd Avenue & 10th Street SE: $73,275 (825)
  • Mobile Speed Camera: $984,000 (13,226)

    In State vs Out-of-State
  • 2010: 76.4% of those cited are Iowa drivers.
  • 2101: 64.4%
  • 2012: 61.1%
  • 2013: 63.5%*
    *No summer months are taken into account

    Top 5 States
  • Iowa: 186,970 citations
  • Minnesota: 26,075
  • Illinois: 25,651
  • Missouri: 6,599
  • Wisconsin: 3,179

    The "Century Club". Since 2010, seven drivers have been clocked at driving 100 mph or more on I-380, including one issued for 109 mph. Also, 47 drivers have been flagged driving between 90-99 mph.
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