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Columbus Looks to Expand Use of Red Light Cameras

Columbus city leaders tonight look to take the next step in more than doubling the number of red light cameras around the city.

Four years ago, 18 cameras went up at some of the most dangerous intersections in Columbus. City leaders insist they've reduced crashes and saved lives, but some researchers say they're just a money grab.

Under the city's current agreement with Arizona-based Redflex Corporation, the city gets about $36 from every $95 ticket that originates from a red light camera. Since 2006, that's happened more than 55,000 times, funneling about $2 million into city coffers.

Now the city wants to expand from 18 cameras to 40. And they're already completed a revised deal with Redflex that means almost twice as much money from each ticket. Police and the department of public safety declined comment ahead of tonight's public hearing. But they insist the cameras are only about safety, and that accidents have dropped sharply at the monitored intersections.

"A lot of evidence in favor of red-light running cameras is anecdotal."

Etienne Pracht is a professor of economics at the University of South Florid. He co-authored a report suggesting red-light cameras are largely inaffective.

"There's special interests behind this to begin with," Pracht says. "These cameras are run by private companies that get not only a monthly fee, but a percentage of each ticket."

Pracht also says the cameras have a tendency to increase rear-end collisions because drivers often slam on their brakes to avoid getting a ticekt. In Columbus' case, numbers provided by the city do show a decline in the number of overall crashes, but the city did not provide statistics on how the cameras have affected rear-end collisions.

Tonight's meeting starts at 5:30 in council chambers.