What Traffic Camera Revenue is Used For, and What Happens if it Goes Away

DES MOINES, Iowa --On Tuesday, the Iowa Senate voted to make all automated traffic cameras a thing of the past, but that makes the revenue they generate a thing of the past as well.

But how much do they bring in? And where does the money end up?

Fiscal year 2016 was the last time all of the speed and red-light cameras were turned on for an entire year. In that year the total revenue was a little over $4 million.  The city got to keep about $2.4 million of that, and the approximately $1.6 million left over went to the company who operates the cameras. The city’s portion becomes earmarked for public safety use only.

“If the police department needs a piece of equipment or we need some training, same thing would apply to the fire department or EMS. I think you could probably make an argument that if we needed to improve lighting in a park as a part of a public safety issue, it could be used in that fashion also,” said Des Moines Police Sgt. Paul Parizek.

Currently, the money is being put toward a $12 million state-of-the-art communication system for the police department. The system will allow police to more easily communicate with other state emergency agencies. Des Moines Police says that need isn't going to change, but what might change is who foots the bill.

“People think the police department is making a lot of money off this. What's happening is the burden on the taxpayers being relieved significantly as expenses go up. We're not building a pool out in the back parking lot, this is for the benefit of the city,” said Parizek.

Some drivers say they are torn over the cameras and the revenue they provide.

“I want that, but I also want to be able to speed if I want to. I think that they're there for a good reason although I, like many other people, don’t like them being there,” said Dawn Voelker.

Others like them less so.

“They can go away, they can go away and I'm pretty sure most of the city can agree with it too,” said Ryan Stimple.

Meanwhile, the Iowa House is considering a separate traffic camera bill which would heavily regulate the cameras, but not outlaw them wholesale. In that version of the bill, the money would also be allowed to go to road improvement.

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