SPEED CAMERAS: Mobile Unit Dismays Commuters

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After the state turned down Windsor Height's proposal to put an automated speed camera on I-235 west bound, about a mile from the one that the city of Des Moines already has in place, the city is doing the next best thing, deploying a mobile speed camera.  Commuters aren't too happy about it.

"I think it's a money grab.  I honestly do.  Because trying to put one on a one mile stretch of I-235 it's obvious what they were trying to do and so I have no doubt in my mind." That’s the view of commuter, Bill Elliott.

Dustin Brown agrees, "If we get caught by a cop speeding I’m ok with that, but just having a camera waiting for someone to come is pretty difficult to handle."

State senator Brad Zaud of Urbandale concurs. He plans to introduce legislation in January banning the cameras all together, "Well first of all they're unconstitutional. Second of all it seems like there's a proliferation of it where it's become more about revenue than it has about safety."

Windsor Heights police chief, Dennis McDaniel, maintains that the cameras are for the public’s safety. Speaking in September, McDaniel states, "This is one of those instances to make a true impact in safety and to do it with resources that don`t create any additional strain to a city, or really on the general tax payer as a whole."

The chief says the mobile speed camera car didn't cost the city anything as it's being paid for by the company that owns the cameras.  Ticket prices begin at $65 with the Massachusetts based company getting $25 of every ticket produced. 

That doesn’t sit well with commuter Phil Miller, "I think it's just all about money, you know?  I think there’s been a lot of complaints about it and I think that's the case here."

The mobile speed camera is not operational yet. The chief’s department is testing it out and working out the bugs. The department plans to hold a press conference next week to discuss when the mobile camera will be used to issue tickets.

Des Moines' seven traffic cameras have been a money-maker for the city this year. Through the end of October, more than 44,000 citations have been issued to drivers caught by the I-235 speed camera, mobile speed camera and five red light cameras.

After paying fees to the company that runs the camera, the city has netted $1.4 million this year.

Police officials say it’s still too soon to tell if the cameras are actually making any intersections safer.