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Alberta freezes photo radar use; Calgary chief opposed to its elimination

Calgary’s police Chief Mark Neufeld said there’s evidence photo radar works as a public safety tool and would oppose the province removing it from their enforcement arsenal.

On Tuesday, the province’s Justice and Transportation ministers outlined changes coming up to photo radar operation in Alberta.

Transportation Minister Ric McIver said that there would be a freeze beginning Dec. 1 on current photo radar use in the 27 municipalities across Alberta.  He later clarified that it would still be in operation, but “not more, not less… the same amount.”

RELATED: Calgary police OK with Google Maps adding photo radar warnings for drivers

McIver said $220 million in revenue had been collected in 2016/2017. In 2018, guidelines were reviewed and in early 2019 new standards were implemented.  

Photo radar operations showed only a marginal contribution to traffic safety, despite having a higher ratio per capita than other provinces, McIver said the review showed.

“Albertans need to have confidence that photo radar is an effective way to keep them safe on the roads,” he said.

Along with the freeze, the province will be engaging with 27 municipalities and the police forces that operate photo radar to improve data collection and review upgraded systems so the data across the province is consistent. From there, McIver said, they’ll be reviewing the public safety aspect to determine the future of photo radar in Alberta.

“But the focus should be on the safety of road, not on how it can be used to skim a few extra dollars from Alberta drivers,” McIver said.   

“Albertans do not want to be nickel and dimed to pad Alberta budgets.”

Tens of millions in CPS revenue at stake

When Coun. Sean Chu asked about the potential impact this photo radar loss might have on CPS revenue, he was told it could be tens of millions.  

If they halted it altogether, it would be a $40 million impact. Of the $55 million of total revenue, 70 per cent is generated through photo enforcement.

“There’s a delicate balance in this issue because I’m of the opinion that if you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime,” said Chu.

Chief Neufeld said that if you look back at the photo enforcement review that was done by the former provincial government, there were places in the province that photo enforcement was used inappropriately.

Calgary wasn’t one of them, he said.

“If you look the thresholds for issuance of tickets, and that sort of thing. It doesn’t look like it was done for traffic safety purposes,” he said.

Calgary’s size, traffic volume and road design make photo radar enforcement the most efficient option.

“There are a lot of intersections in the city that are very, very difficult to enforce safely in the absence of photo enforcement and automated enforcement,” Neufeld said.

“It’s very time consuming as well.”

Calgary Chief Neufeld ‘strongly opposed’ to eliminating Alberta photo radar

Neufeld said there’s a significant body of evidence that technology works.

“So, we would be strongly opposed to (eliminating photo radar). I think we can demonstrate, in the city of Calgary, that we have not overused that and we have not used it as a cash cow,” he said.

“I would say that in our community it’s been used appropriately for traffic safety, which equates to public safety.”

The city posts for public consumption, the upcoming locations for photo radar units. They also provide information on where red light / speed on green cameras are in use across the city.