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Some red-light cameras banned

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Commission votes unanimously to also ban mobile speed vans

By Sue M. Holmes

ALBUQUERQUE — The New Mexico State Transportation Commission voted unanimously Thursday to ban red-light cameras and mobile enforcement vans on state or federal roads over which it has jurisdiction.

The policy gives cities 60 days to remove any red-light cameras now operating in areas where the state claims jurisdiction. The policy does not cover the equipment on roads not regulated by the state Department of Transportation.

The commission said there’s no convincing proof such cameras make streets and highways

safer.

“While the true safety impact of the use of these cameras is still murky at best, one thing has become clear to the commission — more and more New Mexico cities seem to be putting driver-generated revenues ahead of sound traffic management techniques,” Commission Chairman Johnny Cope said in a statement. “Frankly, that concept really troubles me.”

But Santa Fe Police Chief Aric Wheeler said an unmanned camera van that targets speeders has proved its worth, and he doesn’t want to walk away from the project. He added that he’ll have to re-evaluate where to park the van after the vote Thursday.

The 2009 Legislature approved a measure standardizing the use of red-light cameras throughout New Mexico and giving part of the fines to the state.

Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Las Cruces have red-light camera ordinances. Farmington declined to join them last year, with the mayor saying he’d rather hire more police officers.

Albuquerque has had cameras since October 2004; Las Cruces began its program last spring.

Wheeler said the capital was awaiting permits from the Department of Transportation before putting up cameras along Cerrillos, St. Francis and St. Michael’s roads, where the largest number and most severe crashes occur in Santa Fe.

Those three roads fall under state jurisdiction, and the commission said the ban would apply on them.

Other than on those thoroughfares, Santa Fe’s speed van program might not be affected by the ban. Wheeler said it’s largely been used in areas that aren’t under state jurisdiction, including school zones or neighborhoods where people have complained about speeders.

The chief said having the van allows him to put officers on other duties.

Wheeler said he sent a captain to the commission meeting in Clovis and was awaiting word from him on “how clear the language is (in the policy) as far as us utilizing the roadways.”

“If it’s going to prohibit us from using those types of resources on state roadways, there’s not much I can do to change that aspect,” Wheeler said.