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Citrus Heights Messenger

CHPD Updates Council on Grant Funding and Red-Light Camera Program

Nov 16, 2023 12:28PM ● By Shaunna Boyd

CITRUS HEIGHTS, CA (MPG) - During general Public Comment at the November 9 meeting of the Citrus Heights City Council, local resident Andreas Kazos spoke about broken sidewalks in his neighborhood, near the corner of Westbrook Dr. and Hallifax St., close to Auburn Blvd. For five years, Kazos said, “I’ve been fighting with one of your departments.” Large tree roots have shifted areas of the sidewalk, which he said is causing a safety concern, especially for elderly residents like himself and some of his long-time neighbors. In addition to the hazard of broken sidewalks, Kazos said the streetlights don’t work in that area, which further increases the risk of a fall. But he said that despite frequent complaints over the years, no repairs have been made.

 Kazos said he and his wife have both sustained serious injuries due to the broken sidewalks. He suffered a broken jaw and injuries to his arm that he says will require surgery. And Kazos became visibly upset when describing his wife’s injuries, for which he said she had to endure more than 12 hours of surgery to install metal bolts into her arm – which she will no longer be able to use effectively as a concert pianist.

 He said two other elderly neighbors have fallen on the sidewalk and suffered significant injuries, with one of them allegedly developing complications and dying as a result.

 Kazos said his complaints to City staff about the broken sidewalks have been ignored, and he believes two particular employees he has dealt with on this issue to be “incompetent.” He stated that he has not been treated with respect in his interactions with these employees, and that they made promises to deal with the issue that have not been kept.  He suggested these employees should be transferred to different departments: “It’s about time you guys do some changes in your personnel.”

 Kazos said he doesn’t want to involve lawyers in the issue: “This would have been very ugly. But I love my city.” But he loves his wife as well, and he gets very upset when he sees her scar and thinks about all “the pain she has gone through.”

 The Council heard an update from the Citrus Heights Police Department (CHPD) about the statewide Organized Retail Theft Prevention Grant Program, which awarded Citrus Heights $2.75 million, to be expended by December 2026. The grant funding will be used to detect, prevent, and solve theft-related crime, for both retail and motor vehicle theft.

 Funds will provide resources for technology and staffing, with a full-time real time information center operator and a part-time detective position that will focus on organized retail theft.

 Vice Mayor Bret Daniels said retail theft “is absolutely killing businesses, so this is the response that needs to happen. … And I think it will end up being that we’ll see much more in either recovered assets or prevention along the way for our businesses, and that’s critical.” Daniels said that a struggling business could be put out of business by a major theft event, so hopefully, this funding will help “prevent these things and keep our businesses thriving.”

 The Council voted unanimously to accept the grant funding.

 The CHPD also received another grant award – $25,411 from the 2023 Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program. These federal funds can be used for various law enforcement activities, including equipment needs.

 CHPD plans to use the funding to replace five outdated radios in police vehicles, which will support the City’s goal of providing exceptional police services to the community while also enhancing officer safety.

 The Council unanimously approved the JAG funding.

 The CHPD also provided an update about the City’s Red-Light Camera Program. CHPD Lieutenant Michael Wells explained that red-light violations are extremely dangerous, causing serious collisions that can result in significant injury or death. In fatal red-light collisions, the drivers are frequently speeding and often under the influence of alcohol – and almost half of those killed in these collisions are pedestrians, bicyclists, and people in the other vehicle.

 Since program implementation in 2007, in addition to collaboration with the City on other traffic safety improvements, there has been a significant reduction in red-light collisions. The CHPD believes that red-light cameras played a crucial role in that reduction.

 The City’s red-light cameras are currently located at eight intersections on heavily trafficked roadways where collisions tend to occur. The program is administered through a private company, Redflex, whose cameras provide full-time monitoring, with photos and videos taken of potential violations. Those are reviewed twice by Reflex to confirm violations, which are then sent to the CHPD for final review and certification. The citation is mailed to the registered owner of the vehicle, and the violation incident video is available for review. The driver can then pay the fine, or appeal in court. In 2022, 13,486 citations were issued, most of which (78%) were committed by non-residents.

 Citation fees are set by the courts, and the City receives a share of that revenue. Most of that revenue goes to cover the cost of the red-light camera program, but on average, the City receives about $78,110 per year in additional revenue for the general fund. The City’s contract with Redflex is cost neutral, so even if the contract cost and program expenditures exceed the revenue, the City does not pay any additional funds beyond the contract cost.  

 Vice Mayor Daniels said, “Obviously, a lot of people are still running red lights.” He asked if there are additional preventative measures that could be implemented to further reduce the rate of violations. But Lt. Wells said that high visibility is the best way to try to change driver behavior, so existing signage throughout the city warns drivers about the cameras, and the CHPD has a social media campaign showing close-call videos to illustrate the danger.

 Mayor Tim Schaefer said that while statistics show a significant change in red-light violations in the years right after the program was implemented, in recent years the data shows the rate of violations has remained largely consistent. “I struggle to say that this is an effective program if it’s not changing people’s behavior. If we see year after year…the same number of violations, it’s not changing anything.”

 Lt. Wells explained that officers are not able to monitor all intersections at all times, and there is no existing technology that will prevent all red-light violations. If the red-light program were to be discontinued, the CHPD fears that the violations would spike back up without that level of constant enforcement provided by the cameras.

 This was an informational item, and no action was required by Council.

 The regularly scheduled City Council meeting for November 23 has been cancelled due to the Thanksgiving holiday, so the next meeting is scheduled for December 14.