After 30,000 tickets, speed cameras draw backlash from drivers who call them a ‘money grab’

Snellville police said they have mailed out more than 30,000 tickets since installing six-speed cameras in school zones.

While some drivers say they are needed, others say it’s all about the money.

Jason Bramlett said opening the mailbox and finding a speeding ticket has become somewhat of a routine.

"Every day we’ll come home and we’ll be like, hey, got another one," Bramlett said. "It’s a complete and total money grab from the City of Snellville."

He said he got two tickets and a warning about speeding in the town. Bramlett thinks it’s not about safety, but using the technology to cash in.

"Think about the amount of money they’re making off of every single ticket," Bramlett said. "They’ve written 30,000 tickets in three months? That’s ridiculous."

Snellville Police Lt. Zachary Sphar said the cameras are activated near the three schools an hour before the bell morning rings until an hour after the dismissal bell rings. Under Georgia state law, the cameras can only ticket drivers for going more than 11 miles over the speed limit.

The cameras are located in front of South Gwinnett High School on Main Street, in front of Snellville Middle School on Pate Road, and in front of Britt Elementary School on Skyland Drive. 

"The goal is to get voluntary compliance because we’re trying to keep the kids in the high school safe," Lt. Sphar said. "The goal is public safety. I know people say it’s a money grab but it’s not. It’s about getting people to slow down."

"It’s very sneaky because I drive through there at least two or three times a day," Bramlett said. "There’s a little bitty sign that says cameras."

On the other hand, Snellville resident Woodrow Gaines, who also runs a teen safety driving course, thinks the camera are a good way to get people to slow down.

"They just don’t care," Gaines said. "Somebody’s life depends on us being conscious about what we’re doing when we’re behind the wheel."

Police started using the cameras in February, which started with a 30-day grace period in which they sent out warnings. Now, drivers will get an $80 ticket for their first offense, and a $130 ticket every time after. 

Lt. Sphar said the cameras seem to be making a difference. In March, he said they sent out about 14,000 tickets. In April, they sent out 7,000.

He also pointed out that while they have issued about 30,000 tickets since they began using them, they have also thrown out another 31,000.

Sphar said the biggest reason they get dismissed is because of false triggers when drivers weren’t actually breaking the law. He also said if the camera captures a car speeding more than once within a certain time frame, police will still only ticket the person to who the car is registered to once.

First, an employee from the camera company, RedSpeed International, reviews the footage, Sphar said. Then, it is sent to the department for further review, he said. Included with the ticket in the mail is a link for the driver to view the video footage themselves.

Sphar said 65 percent of the money they get from the tickets goes to the police department. The rest goes to RedSpeed, which owns and maintains the cameras. 

He said despite the criticism, he thinks the cameras are serving their purpose.

"The word’s getting out that the cameras are there and it’s having the desired effect of slowing people down," Sphar said. 

Bramlett thinks, at the very least, the sign can be bigger to give drivers a warning.

"I think if it’s really about the safety then they should put bigger signage and more lights to let people know," Bramlett said. "The reason why they haven’t done that, is look at the amount of tickets they’re writing."

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