Brick has bucked the trend.
Despite most communities with red light cameras seeing a drop-off in ticket revenue after six months to a year, Brick's cameras at two intersections – Route 70 and Chambers Bridge Road and Brick Boulevard and Chambers Bridge Road – are recording just as many violations as ever.
That produces revenue for the township, but makes the jobs of those who must predict how much revenue the cameras will produce in the future that much harder.
Township officials have formally projected $200,000 in revenue from Brick's current traffic cameras this year, since most towns see revenue dip after word gets out that the cameras are live.
"People know that the cameras are out there," said Police Chief Nils R. Bergquist while addressing the overall police budget before the township council this week. "We can only go on the projections that the vendor provides us. I'd hate to rely on an income that doesn't materialize."
The township collected $552,101 in 2011 through the month of November out of $929,701 in summonses issued. The difference was collected by American Traffic Solutions, the company that owns Brick's red light cameras.
Despite the cautious approach, however, Business Administrator Scott Pezarras the township's red light cameras are producing as many tickets as ever.
In Brick, the rate of tickets issued remained steady through 2011. The camera at the Brick Boulevard intersection first came online in February 2010 and the Route 70 camera first started nabbing red-light runners in October 2010.
Brick Police Capt. John Rein said on average, 950 to 1,100 summonses are issued each month. In 2011, he said, police officers reviewed about 13,000 violations and issued 12,000 summonses.
"It fluctuates with holidays, seasons and traffic flow," Rein said.
The violations reviewed by Brick officers are first whittled down by American Traffic Solutions.
More Cams Planned
Last year, the township council approved cameras at two additional intersections – the merge of Route 70 and Brick Boulevard, and Route 88 and Post Road.
Revenue from those approved, but not yet built, cameras is not allowed to be counted in this year's budget.
Bergquist said one of the cameras, the one which will be placed at Route 70 and Brick Boulevard, is expected to be operational in the next three to four months. There will be a grace period before the cameras there begin issuing valid summonses.
State approvals may mean the camera at Route 88 and Post Road will take longer to bring online, officials said.
Future of Red Light Cams, Revenue in Question
If one state legislator has his way, however, the revenue stream public officials have come to rely on in the red light cameras could be unraveled.
Assemblyman Declan O'Scanlon (R-Monmouth) has come out against red light cameras, telling the Newark Star-Ledger earlier this year that the cameras amount to "automatic taxing machines."
If the cameras, which are currently legal in New Jersey only in certain municipalities under a pilot program, must be removed, the police budget will take a hit, Bergquist said.
"We'd have to make some adjustments in a substantial way in our budget," said Bergquist. "It's something that we're following very closely."
Bergquist said red light cameras are designed to make intersections safer by training drivers to obey traffic signals. Over time, fewer tickets are issued as drivers become more aware that a camera is active.
Revenue aside, making up for such a level of traffic enforcement would be difficult, Bergquist said. The same level of enforcement by uniformed police officers – 24 hours per day at two intersections – would cost about $3 million.
The violations produced by the cameras are reviewed by officers several hours at a time, often by officers working light duty assignments due to injuries sustained on the job.
"In my opinion, the red light traffic camera is the ultimate in doing more with less, if you look at the production versus the costs," Bergquist said.