JP sheriff clears air on red light cameras - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

JP sheriff clears air on red light cameras

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Gretna, La. — Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand said he is tired of all of the headaches resulting from the parish's red light camera program, which was suspended three years ago.

Normand appeared before the Jefferson Parish Council Wednesday afternoon to discuss millions of dollars in fines linked to the program.

In 2010, the council pulled the plug on the red light cameras. And since then the parish has been tied up in court, fighting lawsuits filed by drivers and even Redflex, the company that ran the cameras. Redflex has said the parish had no right to suspend the program and has sued the parish for millions of dollars.

Sheriff Normand is custodian of the fines paid by drivers, money that is now in escrow because of the ongoing legal battles.

"The fact of the matter is there's a large sum of money that we've been holding on to for a long time," Normand said to reporters after addressing the council.  In fact, Normand said it is about $20 million.

Recently, the council went on record saying it intends to refund drivers who paid fines. But those refunds will not happen anytime soon.

"As soon as the litigation is resolved, it's our intent to issue refunds," said Council Chair Chris Roberts.

"There was this notion that the Sheriff's Office was the party that would have to make the payments back to the individuals and that's not the case…We're simply the collector of the fines," Normand said.

Roberts said there was no parity in the system.  "There's approximately 100,000 tickets that were not paid, and for those individuals that did pay it seems to me that we were very arbitrary in how we enforced the program, and that's a problem.  The contract stated that Redflex was responsible for collections that obviously didn't occur," Roberts said.

Normand did not hold back in expressing his distaste for the problems which have arisen from the red light camera program.  "At this point, quite frankly, I'm probably not unlike other parties.  I'm about sick and tired of Redflex and the whole program at this juncture. We're called upon to do a lot of things in the collection of records, this and that, you know, court appearances," he said.

And when it comes to impacting the way people drive, Normand is not convinced that the traffic cameras have been very effective.  "I haven't seen any empirical data to support long-term significant drops in intersectional collisions as it relates to those cameras and the tickets that are issued, the same would hold true quite frankly with speeding," Normand said.

Even though the Sheriff's Office received a portion of the fines, the sheriff said he will follow the council's direction when it comes to the planned refunds.

"I'm tired of messing with this particular issue, let's just put it behind us," Normand said.

Normand said his office gets 12 percent of every ticket issued in Jefferson Parish, the District Attorney's Office gets 12 percent and the parish gets 76 percent. However, he said once lawsuits were filed against the red light cameras he did not include that amount in his operating budget.

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