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Red-light cameras will operate soon

A glitch with the new system delayed an expected August start

An eye in the sky above the intersection of Barnett Road and Stewart Avenue needs a quick check-up before city officials begin depending on it to bag red-light runners.

Workers from Redflex Traffic Systems installed cameras at the intersection more than a month ago, prompting Medford police to announce photo-enforcement equipment there would be operational by late August.

But officials encountered a problem when trying to access video clips recorded electronically when motorists illegally entered the intersection after the light turned red.

It's a whole new system, and we ran into some bugs, Sgt. Karl Haeckler said.

Police are not required to have video footage available before issuing tickets, but they use it to obtain back up data that provides them with more information about a situation involving a red-light runner, Haeckler said.

— Video clips include several seconds of footage used to help determine if a citation will be mailed to a suspected violator, he said.

The problem has been 'attaching' the video images to the photos, Redflex spokesman Jack Weaver said. That's getting resolved now.

Haeckler said police now expect to have the system at Barnett and Stewart up and running in the next few days.

The city is authorized to set up photo-enforcement equipment at seven additional intersections that have not yet been identified, Haeckler said. But officers have been monitoring several city intersections recently, and if they find that violations are few and far-between, police could opt to not set up any more red-light cameras.

It costs a lot of money to put these things up, and it's good news if we don't have to (install more cameras) because it means people are following the law, Haeckler said. Ultimately, we want compliance.

Under an agreement with another vendor who went bankrupt earlier this year, Medford operated a photo-enforcement program in 2002 and 2003. Previously, red-light cameras were installed at the intersections of Biddle and McAndrews roads and Riverside Avenue and Barnett Road.

According to police, an estimated 25 to 50 red-light violations were occurring daily at the intersections before cameras were installed. The number of red-light runners decreased to about 10 per week after the program's inception, police said. The previous set-up did not include the use of video footage.

I like the new system because it's much more comprehensive, Medford police Chief Eric Mellgren said. There's no sneakiness involved ' video is not recorded unless a violation occurs.

Speed-detection vans make up the other prong of the city's photo-enforcement program. Radar-equipped vans returned to the streets in July and are now in regular use at various Medford locations.

In 2003, the city's photo-enforcement program generated nearly 7,000 citations, the vast majority of which were mailed to speeding motorists.

Portland and Beaverton are the only other Oregon cities using photo-enforcement equipment.

Reach reporter Jack Moran at 776-4459, or e-mail