City passes resolution supporting stoplight camera systems
By Heather Graves
GREEN BAY – The Green Bay city council unanimously approved a resolution at its meeting Aug. 3 supporting state legislation permitting municipalities to utilize automated speed enforcement systems and traffic control camera systems.
“When it comes to traffic enforcement, the City of Green Bay needs an additional tool in the toolbox to enforce traffic,” District 12 Alderperson Jesse Brunette said. “Certainly, around intersections where there are schools and children and habitual speeders. we need to get this under control … What we are looking at is the safety of the people in our community.”
Currently, state law prohibits the use of cameras to automatically generate photographs of vehicles to detect traffic violations, such as speeding or running red lights, as well as the issuance of citations based on such photographs.
“I think it is important to emphasize to the public that we can’t make this decision by ourselves,” District 1 Alderperson Barbara Dorff said. “We have to get the law changed. So this is just the very first step in asking our Legislature to consider getting rid of that ban.”
According to the resolution, from 2016-20 there were 4,745 motor vehicle crashes in the City of Green Bay – including 24 fatalities and 259 crashes involving pedestrians and/or bicyclists.
The resolution also states speed was deemed the factor in those crashes more frequently than distracted driving or operating under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
“Obviously, besides the condition of roads, (speeding) is the number one complaint,” District 8 Alderperson Chris Wery said. “This past year I have gotten so many calls.”
District 9 Alderperson Brian Johnson said utilizing cameras could help the Green Bay Police Department.
“This allows for more efficient deployment of resources,” Johnson said. “The cost to install cameras or surveillance equipment that can be strategically deployed in certain areas is certainly going to be more cost-effective than the addition of traffic enforcement officers that can only be where they are.”
Interim Police Chief James Runge said there hasn’t been much discussion within the department about traffic enforcement cameras.
“We haven’t studied them real in-depth,” he said. “They could be an effective tool in select locations.”
Council members voted to refer two additional requests attached to the resolution discussion – to increase funding for moving radar units within police vehicles, and to increase the number of traffic enforcement officers – to the police department and mayor’s office for further discussion in connection with the 2022 budget process.
“What I would recommend on these two items is refer them to the new police chief (Christopher Davis) and the mayor’s office as they work on the 2022 budget,” Brunette said.
Runge said each squad car has a stationary radar gun, but it depends on each officer’s availability if they are utilized.
“It depends on the individual officer,” Runge said. “If they have the discretionary time and they park and use the stationary radar.”
District 4 Alderperson Bill Galvin said it’s wise to have Davis look at these topics.
“A group of us met with (former Police Chief Andrew) Smith, prior to the pandemic hitting,” Galvin said. “I had some numbers pulled on (traffic) enforcement action of officers in our department. Some of it was pretty disappointing and shocking as to how little some of them were doing (traffic enforcement). I think this is a discussion we have with the chief and a body of interested alderpersons that would like to meet with him. But I think before we start hiring more traffic enforcement officers or anything else… I can’t see spending a lot of money if it is just going to sit in the car.”
Runge said the department also utilizes mobile speeding boards.
“We have two or three that we move around the community… based on complaints and urgency,” he said. “We do try to address things as quickly as we can. The boards do work somewhat. We can send them a letter saying ‘Hey, you were seen speeding in this area,’ just as a warning.”
Alderpersons also approved a resolution supporting the creation of a nonpartisan procedure for the preparation of legislative and congressional redistricting plans.
The nonbinding resolution urges the Legislature to create a nonpartisan panel for redistricting voting maps with the 2021 census numbers.
District 7 Alderperson Randy Scannell, who brought forward the resolution, said it is meant to affirm residents’ support of a statewide, nonpartisan redistricting process.
The November 2020 ballot included an advisory referendum question asking voters for their thoughts on nonpartisan redistricting procedures.
In Brown County, it passed with 71.9% approval.