May 2, 2013 1:37 AM by Sam Salzwedel
TUCSON - Supporters of traffic photo enforcement cameras say they catch more than just bad drivers.
They reduce collisions and change driver behavior across town, according to Tucson Police Sgt. Chris Widmer.
He says they also help in other investigations.
"These have been in serious accident cases, murder cases," Widmer said. "They're instrumental. They have been a very big help for us."
In April, Tucson Police released a photo of a woman who they say ran a red light after stealing a car.
"A lot of our cases are solved by us getting a picture like that," Widmer said. "That breaks a case open, showing it to the public, and someone from the public identifying this person."
A group called Tucson Traffic Justice is trying to end the City's photo enforcement program. They are collecting signatures so Tucsonans can vote to get rid of the cameras.
Mark Spear has been helping the effort.
"The cameras treat the public very unfairly," Spear said, "and it has to be that way for the contractor to make money, and therefore, also the city and all the other government agencies that profit by it."
He says the number of criminal investigations helped by photo enforcement is almost irrelevant.
"The damage and the unfairness of the cameras really outweigh that," Spear said. "It can't be enough of a reason to keep the cameras simply because there might be a crime at some point."
American Traffic Solutions, the vendor that runs the program in Tucson and Pima County, provided data related to other investigations. Tucson Police requested footage more than 150 times and the Pima County Sheriff's Department asked for it more than 65 times, according to ATS.
On October 15, 2011, 2 men were illegally racing. One of them struck and killed another driver. The other racer left the scene. They were both caught by the cameras at Oracle and River Roads. The footage helped prove what the drivers were doing before the crash, according to Tucson Police.
On May 20, 2011, a woman hit a bicyclist and fled. Police found her, and her car had serious damage. Right before the crash, she was caught by the cameras at Grant and Swan Roads and her car was not damaged. That footage helped prove she hit the bicyclist, according to Tucson Police.