Photo radar tickets in Calgary significantly down following provincial changes

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Photo radar tickets in Calgary significantly down following provincial changes
Calgary Police Service data shows tickets issued from photo radar are dropping following rule changes from the provincial government, including high visibility decals. Adam MacVicar reports – Apr 12, 2023

Months after the Calgary Police Service began wrapping their photo radar vehicles with high visibility decals, data from the police service shows the number of photo radar tickets have declined in the city.

The banners, which say “drive safe,” were in response to changes to provincial law around automated traffic enforcement provincial law enacted in December 2021.

The idea behind the changes was to promote safe driving and prevent police and municipalities from using photo radar as a “cash cow,” provincial officials said at the time.

According to data from the Calgary Police Service, there were 6,531 photo radar tickets issued in March of this year, a decline of 68 per cent from the 20,805 tickets issued in March 2019; a relatively normal month for photo radar tickets before the pandemic.

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The data shows there were 53,364 photo radar tickets issued in the first three months of 2019, compared to just 22,273 tickets issued in the first three months of this year.

Doug King, a professor of Justice Studies at Mount Royal University, said the data still shows a decline compared to the pandemic-induced reductions in traffic volumes.

“We have not encountered an epiphany here in Calgary that we should all be slowing down on the road,” King told Global News. “The new rules have made it harder for the police to actually use photo radar.”

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Those new provincial rules are in effect until December 2023. They prevent municipalities and police from installing new photo radar equipment, upgrading existing photo radar devices and adding new photo radar locations.

According to King, the provincial government also began taking a larger share of revenue from radar and traffic tickets, which could have an impact on police funding.

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“A drop in revenue will significantly impact the number of new officers you can hire,” King said. “Calgary, Edmonton, large metropolitan cities, smaller communities; the need for more police officers and boots on the ground is clearly evident.”

However, Calgary’s police chief said photo radar in Calgary is about traffic safety and not generating revenue.

Chief Mark Neufeld told reporters the technology isn’t “overused the way its been in other jurisdictions.”

Neufeld said he is anticipating an impact on the police budget, but is waiting for more data to determine if more highly-visible photo radar vehicles are contributing to safer roads in Calgary.

“The revenue piece is part of our budget, so it has an impact just the way the budget is constructed,” Neufeld said “At the end of the day, we’ll be looking at it from the angle of efficacy around collisions that have injury or fatalities — that’s where we’re going to want to see the impact of this as well. It’s not purely a financial question.”

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Drivers that spoke with Global News on Wednesday said they welcome easier to spot photo radar vehicles and hope they’re making a difference on city streets.

“Probably a good idea that they’re not hiding. To me that’s a little bit dishonest,” Darryl Beal said. “I think visibility is a good thing.

“Yeah they may not get as many tickets, but I think it’s better in the long run.”

According to the city, there are are 10 photo radar vehicles and 55 intersection cameras that are deployed within Calgary city limits.

Global News reached out to the provincial government for comment on the changes to photo radar enforcement but did not get a response.

—with files from Global News’ Meghan Cobb

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