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Phoenix police face challenges dealing with red-light runners

Red-light camera
Posted at 3:40 PM, Jun 02, 2021

PHOENIX — The death of Phoenix Police Officer Ginarro New by a red-light runner has prompted a renewed discussion about whether Phoenix needs to turn its red light cameras back on.

RELATED: Will Phoenix red-light cameras be re-activated?

Phoenix stopped using red-light cameras for traffic enforcement in 2019. The U.S. Department of Transportation says for cities which do not use red-light cameras, strategically placed police motorcycle patrols can offer a good alternative.

“I’ve been hoping they do a red-light task force where they actually put some motorcycle police officers on intersections,” says Red Means Stop founder Barbara Hoffman.

In the wake of Monday’s tragic collision, Hoffman thinks more motorcycle units on patrol is a good idea. “Even if they’re not drunk or on drugs, they could just be aggressive drivers and that’s something to overcome,” Hoffman says.

The challenge for Phoenix police to form a red-light task force is substantial. In 1995, there were more than 150 motorcycle units working the streets of Phoenix. Today it’s about 60. Although Phoenix police says it’s actively working to hire 67 more officers to the traffic division.

“Right now we are 100 police officers short. We normally have 160 on the street we have about 60 on the street right now,” says Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio.

The issue is not money. Retirements and the inability to hire enough new officers are contributing to staffing shortages department wide.

“Red-light cameras do not help when it comes to DUI. You need police on the street,” DiCiccio said. "If they could find them, they would hire 500 new officers today."

In the meantime, aggressive driving remains a problem in Phoenix. The city rates as one of the worst red-light running cities in the U.S.

Mayor Kate Gallego, who supports red-light cameras, says a discussion on red light cameras will be added to a subcommittee agenda this fall.