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Proposal would set Santa Fe ‘speed van’ fines at $50

SANTA FE – If the City Council approves the return of “speed vans” to the streets of Santa Fe, the sting for a motorist who’s caught speeding on camera may not be as severe as previously proposed.

City Councilor Signe Lindell has suggested setting a standard fine for speed van violations of $50, no matter how many times a driver gets caught, according to information provided to the council’s Public Works Committee Monday.

Camera speed enforcement was used in Santa Fe from 2009 to 2013, when the city let the program expire after the vice president of contractor Redflex was accused of offering bribes to government officials in 12 states. The City Council and mayor voted 5-4 in 2017 to bring back speed vans, with supporters citing traffic data that showed an increased number of accidents after the program was discontinued.

The council in 2017 decided that the fine be $50 for a first offense. If caught speeding again within a two-year period, a speeder’s fine would be $100. There would be higher fines for speeding in school or construction zones, a provision that would remain under Lindell’s suggested changes.

The Public Works Committee decided to postpone action on the measure Monday after councilors said they’d been given a lot of new information to absorb. Lindell’s proposed changes, described by police department officials for reporters outside the council chambers, were apparently part of a new memo provided to the councilors on the speed van plan.

The police department is seeking approval of a contract with Verra Mobility Corporation, chosen over Redflex, the only other bidder, for two camera vans. Verra would get 40 percent of collected fines. The city and the state would share the remaining 60 percent.

The police department also would at least two hand-held cameras that officers could wield, in spaces without the 150-foot sight line required for the vans.

Deputy Police Chiefs Robert Vasquez and Ben Valdez told reporters speed vans are a “force multiplier” that allows officers to spend more time on other duties, aren’t a big money maker and shouldn’t be seen as “Big Brother” surveillance. “It’s doing the right thing when no one’s looking,” said Valdez of the program’s goals.