Mayor Tyler Warman

Mayor's Blog

Sep 27

[ARCHIVED] Photo Radar - The Good, The Bad, and the Speeders

The original item was published from September 27, 2016 3:30 PM to September 29, 2016 2:45 PM

Well the only thing talked about more than construction lately is photo radar.   In the last couple of weeks, it seems to be the number one topic on social media.   I have been tagged in posts, phone messages have been left, and have had email sent directly too me.   As a result it is probably time to do a refresher on what we are doing and why.

Council started tossing around the idea of photo radar almost 2 years ago.  The idea behind it is that photo radar is not to replace policing but to augment it.   We talked to other communities that had photo radar, our bylaw team, our local police, and the contractor that would deliver the service.  The average police officer cost us about $158,000 per year, which is an increase of approximately 2 per cent in taxes to residents.

Council wanted to make sure photo radar didn’t become a source of revenue we depended on, so we said it can’t go into general taxation.  We can use it for one time improvements, safety programs etc.  So far we have spent none of this money but will be discussing it this fall during budget. 
How much did it cost us?  Nothing.  All the up front costs of people, equipment, vehicles, etc is all handled by the contractor. 
Now tickets.  Normally when a police officer or bylaw officer writes a ticket a portion goes to the province, and we keep a portion that goes back into general tax revenue to offset the costs of the people writing the tickets.  Now with photo radar we essentially split that revenue with the contractor, (the province still takes their portion).  We are giving up revenue, but we also have no expenses. 

Enforcement.  Photo radar employees are peace officers.  They are able to park where they want and do what they need to carry out their duties.  That being said it looks pretty silly when we give out parking tickets for things our own officers are doing.  So although its not illegal, it doesn’t provide a good perception and so we have asked them to work on that perception. 
What about speeds?  The tolerance on when they decide to issue a photo radar ticket or not is determined not by council, our staff or the contractor.  Its determined by the RCMP. 
Why are we not in school zones lately?  For the month of September we concentrated on having officers in school zones, especially in school zones.  They are better at education, and provided many warning tickets which photo radar does not.  Come October, the education phase will come to and end and you will see photo radar more predominately in these areas.   
Why dose it seem like they are out more?  Typically the contractor employs two people, but in the past there has been a bunch of time they were short staffed and as of late that is no longer the case. 
So the big question is why do we keep doing it.  Originally we signed a one-year contract.  This spring they wanted another 5-year contract and council said no, let’s try another year.  How do we know its working?  Almost everyone reading this can admit they drive different than what they used to.  People are more cautious, attentive, and speeds are more aptly adhered to.  Now if you don’t want to believe that, the annual number of collisions has dropped significantly which I think we can all agree is a good thing.  We also monitor where people who get the tickets are from, and over time, the number of local residents receiving tickets has also decreased. 
In the end photo radar does not replace a police officer.  Police officers would be better I agree, but they are expensive and can’t be everywhere all the time.  That combined with the fact people want better policing, and don’t want an increase in their taxes have lead us to try new things.
New ideas like how we tax, how we plan, staffing levels, chickens, pets, recreation, photo radar, utility bills, communication and the list goes on.  Will photo radar stay?  I imagine next spring we will look at the numbers again, talk to RCMP, our bylaw and decide if its time to get rid of it? 
Photo radar is not popular I would agree with you on that, but I do know its making a difference.  The tough part about being a politician is deciding what is more important, doing what is popular, or making decisions that make a difference.  I think the goal is to try and find a balance between both.  


Ryan LeBlanc
October 10, 2016 at 3:34 PM
I like the part about how much it cost us. So it doesnt cost anything to prey on the public; thats good to know.
Andrew Plumb
November 6, 2016 at 9:43 AM
You haven't yet mentioned what percentage goes to the contractor (american company) and how much stays in Slave Lake. If you are going to make a statement, supply facts and numbers so we can understand where our money is going.
Andrew Plumb
November 6, 2016 at 9:55 AM
Peace officers are not allowed to park where ever they want. Photo radar was being conducted on private property (Super 8 parking lot) without permission and after the manager made herself aware of the trespassing they were instructed to leave the property and stay off.
Andrew Plumb
November 6, 2016 at 10:11 AM
"The annual number of collisions have dropped significantly" Have you taken into consideration the significant amount of jobs lost during this economic down turn which creates less vehicles on the road? How many less vehicles are traveling on our roads/highways compared to six months, a year or two years ago?
Andrew Plumb
November 6, 2016 at 10:17 AM
"The number of local residents receiving tickets has also decreased" We live in a small town and it's not difficult to determine the make, model, color of photo radar vehicles and we know the limited places they can set up.
Andrew Plumb
November 6, 2016 at 10:27 AM
"I think the goal is to try and find a balance between both" Judging by that statement, you've already made up your mind and do not have any intentions in getting rid of photo radar. We as voters are becoming more aware of our leaders roles and responsibilities and we want to see more discussion regarding this matter. This may be a issue that would change peoples perspective and voting choices in the future.
Andrew Plumb
November 6, 2016 at 10:36 AM
We all agree that the photo radar does nothing to stop drunk drivers, dangerous driving, driving tired, speeding, someone under mental distress, people over driving in poor weather conditions, someone driving a stolen vehicle... Photo radar is not affective in fog, freezing rain, snowy/blizzard conditions, extreme cold, license plates are muddy/dirty and on top of it all with our environmental awareness, I find it deplorable that these vehicles continuously idle and pollute.