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Speeding through one of Napa’s four red-light camera intersections might still trigger a camera flash, but there will be no citation following in the mail.

The city has suspended its red-light camera program following a judge’s May ruling that deemed the cameras illegal, said City Manager Mike Parness. For now, the cameras flash but citations are not being processed.

“As long as the court’s ruling stands, we decided we would respect that,” Parness said.

On June 21, the City Council will discuss the city’s response to the ruling and look at extending or suspending the contract with Redflex, Parness said.

Red-light camera citations will not be issued again until the council gets clarification from the court regarding the program’s legality, and only if the council chooses to extend the expiring contract, Parness said. 

On May 27, Napa County Superior Court Judge Diane Price ruled the city’s 2008 contract with Arizona-based Redflex violated state vehicular law because it included a provision for payment based on the number of citations issued by the cameras. 

On Wednesday, the city of Napa filed a request for reconsideration, Parness said.

The city’s three-year contract with Redflex expires Friday. Although the city disputes Price’s interpretation of the contract, Parness said any contract extension would eliminate the potential for debate.

“The contract we bring back would likely eliminate the source of the problem,” Parness said. “We don’t believe that’s how the contract is written (but) if we were to bring it back, we would eliminate or significantly change the wording.”

Napa Police Capt. Jeff Troendly said the number of motorists running red lights at the camera-policed intersections has declined since they were installed in 2009 and 2010, indicating the equipment is doing its job.

“People are under the impression the cameras are there to reduce collisions,” Troendly said. “That’s a byproduct of what we’re out to do, which is change driving habits. They are in fact doing that.”

In March 2010, there were 2,088 violations at the juncture of Highways 29 and 121, the highest volume red-light camera intersection, according to data provided by Troendly.

In May 2011, the number of violations at 29/121 had dropped by nearly two-thirds to 761, he said. 

“I know it’s (because of) a change in driving behavior,” Troendly said.

The statistics for 29/121 include incidents that resulted in a citation and those that did not after being reviewed by the Napa Police Department.

Troendly said the main problem people seem to have with the cameras is the $475 price tag that comes with running a red light.

“Nobody says, ‘I didn’t do it,’” he said. “Their biggest complaint is the fine is too high. The state Legislature is the one that regulates that and it has become almost ridiculous. It is excessive, it’s too high.”

In the meantime, Napa police will try to regulate red-light runners as well as they can, likely assigning two officers to the intersections when possible to watch for violations and issue citations manually, Troendly said.

 “Now we’ll have to put officers out to cover those areas, in addition to all our other areas,” Troendly said.

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