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Red-light cameras switched off, radar vans parked

You won't have to check TucsonSentinel.com's listing of radar vans before heading out for your commute anymore. In the wake of an overwhelming vote to end Tucson's photo traffic enforcement programs, the city has put the brakes on the red light cameras at eight intersections, and sent its photo radar vans back to the garage.

Proposition 201 was approved by voters Tuesday, 66-34 percent. Even though the vote has yet to be certified by the City Council, officials acknowledged the margin at the polls and shut down the programs this week. Hoods were placed over some signs that warned motorists of the cameras at intersections, and the radar vans were not deployed as scheduled.

The city stopped issuing tickets from the cameras on Wednesday night, and is no longer processing citations from the program, City Manager Michael Ortega said.

"The voters have spoken clearly on this issue," Ortega said. The city "wishes to honor the spirit and intent of the voters by ending the citations immediately."

A two-year effort by the group Tucson Traffic Justice gathered enough signatures to put the issue on the ballot. A 2012 effort saw organizers, including former state legislator-turned political gadfly John Kromko, narrowly miss a ballot spot when only about 55 percent of the signatures filed were valid.

City officials have said that the number of collisions at the covered intersections fell from 193 in 2007 — prior to the introduction of the cameras — to 61 in fiscal year 2014.

After payment to the contractor operating the program, as well as police and court costs, the red-light cameras net the city about $1.2 million in 2014, down from $2 million in 2011 as the number of tickets issued has fallen. About $1.2 million went to contractor American Traffic Solutions, with $354,000 going to the Tucson Police Department and $296,000 in court costs.

Anticipating the success of the measure, Kromko said Tuesday that "when cameras are removed, typically nothing at all happens, except that people have more money in the pockets. This is what happened when Pima County remove their cameras a year and a half ago."

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"This is because the idea that the cameras reduce accidents or fatalities is a myth promoted by the camera companies and those who are working for them," he said.

Kromko, a Democrat, served in the Legislature from 1976-1990. He was prompted to push for a removal of the cameras when he received a ticket himself.

Prior to his 2012 effort to end the photo enforcement program, he had faced petition troubles before. After a 2008 run for the Legislature, he pleaded guilty to forgery charges related to the signatures on his nominating petitions.

While he needed to turn in just 400 signatures to make the primary ballot in a state House race, he turned in twice that many. He lost that election, and was charged with 19 counts, including forgery, identity theft and fraudulent schemes, regarding 29 disputed signatures on his petitions. As part of a 2009 plea deal, Kromko was forbidden from running for office for five years and placed on probation for two years.

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Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.com

Signs reading 'Traffic laws photo enforced' were hooded at Speedway and Kolb Road on Thursday, after the city shut down its red-light camera program.