Hutto to decide whether to keep red light cameras

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HUTTO, Texas (KXAN) — The city of Hutto has two red light cameras; one at U.S. 79 and Exchange Boulevard and the other at U.S. 79 and FM 1660 North. That is where Curry Wyman says he got a ticket when turning right on FM 1660 North.

“I kind of rolled past this white line,” explains Wyman. “It didn’t really seem like I should’ve gotten a ticket I guess, but since I didn’t come to a complete stop right in front of the line, it kind of made sense.”

In November, the city council will have to decide whether to renew a contact to keep the cameras in place.

Since a red light camera violation is a civil penalty, there aren’t as many consequences for drivers who run the red lights. By comparison, a moving violation issued by an officer comes with more penalties.

“Which goes against your record, your insurance, your driving record, where there’s actually some kind of penalty for running the red light,” explains Hutto City Council member Tom Hines. “So you can run 10 red lights and get 10 red light camera tickets, and nobody is the wiser.”

Hines says he wants the cameras gone.

“I don’t believe it’s worth the time and the effort. I think there’s a better way to help deter people from running stop lights,” says Hines.

Since 2009, Hutto has collected $1.4 million from red light camera tickets, however $1.2 million of that money goes toward operating the cameras. The city has pocketed about $135,000, with another $135,000 going to the state.

This city says the money it keeps goes back to the Hutto Police Department and can only be spent on traffic enforcement tools and equipment. They’ve used the money to buy E-citation devices, crash scene equipment and software, and to pay for lease payments to help fund police cars and cameras.

Hutto Police Chief Earl Morrison says in most cases, red light cameras deter speeders and help with traffic enforcement. He says if you do receive a citation, the city’s Municipal Court clerks and our Police Management Assistants will help answer questions.

Several other cities in Central Texas got rid of red light cameras.

Round Rock took theirs down at the beginning of this year. The Round Rock Police Department said it could not force drivers to pay fines since it is a civil violation.

It was a different story in Bastrop. They had two cameras along State Highway 71. But they went offline during TxDOT construction. Bastrop police say they have no plans to reinstall the cameras because the intersections where they had been will become overpasses.

Other cities, including Elgin and Austin, plan to keep their red light cameras, but are now facing a class action lawsuit.

Richard Bowman, a north Texas attorney, says he’s part of a class-action lawsuit in about 45 cities, including Austin. He claims red light cameras are unconstitutional and says people who paid tickets from the cameras, should get a refund.

A judge recently awarded Bowman more than $27,000 in a lawsuit in Dallas County, after he got a ticket from a red light camera. Bowman says he did not know about the ticket for two years. But when he went to register his car, officials told him he had to pay the ticket. Bowman says that is illegal since running a red light is a civil offense, not criminal.

Bowman also says a Richardson, Texas police officer was acting as a judge in red light cases, and Bowman does not believe an officer would be unbiased.

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