Chicago speed cameras largely impact Black and brown drivers, according to advocacy group

A volunteer-based organization says that excessive red light speed cameras are a cash-grab for the city to close their billion dollar deficit

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A Chicago-based advocacy group said that red-light speed cameras are not only a cash-grab by city officials, but are disproportionately affecting Black and brown drivers.

Chicago Coalition For Change, a volunteer-driven organization whose goal is to “abolish red-light cameras in Illinois,” has been asking for more Chicagoans to join their cause.

Earlier this year, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced that the speeding violation threshold would be lowered in an effort to lessen fatal motor vehicle crashes, which increased 77% in 2020.

Fines range from $35 for vehicles going six to ten mph over the speed limit and $100 for those going 11 mph or more over the speed limit.

A spokesperson for the advocacy group said that the speed cameras have not been approved by the city council and have been placed in areas with higher minority populations.

“Red light cameras, photo enforcement have little to no impact on safety and so what they’ve done is, they’ve created a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist,” said volunteer with Chicago Coalition For Change, Mark Wallace.

A report showed that the city of Chicago, which is more than 32% Black and nearly 30% Latinx, has 162-speed cameras in 69 “safety zones.”

The group also claims that the speeding regulations are the city’s way of raising revenue from essential workers who have to drive during the pandemic.

In the past year, Illinois has had an uptick in fatal motor vehicle crashes despite the pandemic which gave many people the option to work from home.

City officials suggested that because the pandemic freed up a lot of congestion on the road, it tempted drivers to be more reckless and less precautionary.

Lori Lightfoot Is Sworn In As Chicago's First Female African American Mayor
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – MAY 20: Lori Lightfoot addresses guests after being sworn in as Mayor of Chicago during a ceremony at the Wintrust Arena on May 20, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. Lightfoot become the first black female and openly gay Mayor in the city’s history. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Lightfoot, who took office in 2019, said that the goal is not to issue more tickets, but to discourage speeding that could cause severe injury and death.

Since being implemented in March of this year, the city has made $11.3 million in revenue. Some of which is presumed to go towards Chicago’s $1.2 billion deficit.

On the Chicago Coalition For Change website, several news stories and statements from legislatures who do not approve of the speed cameras are featured.

“For years, Democratic legislators have told the public that they favor red light camera reform, but in private, they work behind the scenes to kill reform legislation because their local governments are addicted to the revenue,” said State Rep. Deanne Mazzochi, who has proposed several bills to remove the red light cameras in Illinois.

Other representatives and locals have also spoken about how the speed cameras have hurt them financially.

The Alderman of the ninth ward, Anthony Beale, said that there is no guarantee that the speed cameras will reduce deadly crashes in the city.

“But what we do know is that the City’s speed cameras function as a cash cow,” he said in a statement. “People are hurting right now. “We’re in a crisis. We’re in a pandemic. Now we’re just going to basically just compound the problems that people are already having.”

Chicago Coalition For Change also stated that in Lightfoot’s first State of the City address in 2019, she spoke out against the city’s “addiction to regressive fines and fees system,” and promised to reduce burdens on low-income drivers.

They said she has not kept that promise.

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