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Speed cameras positioned throughout Albuquerque have resulted in about 26,000 citations since late May, according to city data.
Now officials are considering whether cameras belong in the unincorporated parts of Bernalillo County too, including the Tramway and Coors corridors.
County Commissioner Walt Benson has introduced an “automated speed enforcement ordinance” that would align the county with the city in its efforts to reduce illegally fast driving.
The Albuquerque City Council approved the use of mobile speed cameras in 2021, and officials rolled 10 of them out this spring. The city has issued 25,998 citations as of Monday, according to statistics on its website.
The county is proposing a similar system. Like the city, it would deploy mobile speed cameras but rely on a law enforcement officer to verify the camera evidence before actually imposing fines. Violations caught on camera would be civil, not criminal, and cost $100.
The County Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to move the bill forward and has plans to make a final decision on Jan. 24.
“It’s a safety ordinance to help reduce speeding,” said Benson, who emphasized that his intent is not to generate revenue.
“It also helps reduce some of the pressure on the sheriff’s department; when a camera can help enforce speeding or driving within the speed limits, that frees up sheriff’s deputies to go deal with more human-intensive work.”
Deputy County Manager Elias Archuleta said if the commission ultimately approves the bill, the county would likely start a pilot project with four to 10 cameras. It would take about six to nine months to launch, he said.
Notably, Archuleta said the State Transportation Commission has expressed a willingness to let the county place cameras on state roads inside the county. He specifically cited high-speed Tramway and the dangerous Coors Boulevard.
Commissioner Debbie O’Malley said she remembers the public criticism the city received years ago that its now-defunct red-light camera program was solely about making money but that she agreed with Benson’s motives on this.
“I feel we just don’t have the capacity to deal with traffic violations, especially speeding,” she said. “I think you make a good point about officers (being) needed elsewhere.”
On Tuesday, the commission also approved a Benson-sponsored “pedestrian safety ordinance” to prohibit anyone from camping on, obstructing or otherwise impeding movement on streets, sidewalks, medians and other public rights of way on “dangerous streets or intersections” in the unincorporated areas of the county. Archuleta said it would apply to about 44 intersections in the county’s jurisdiction.
The ordinance requires a warning before an officer can proceed to a citation or arrest.
The legislation passed on a 4-1 vote with only O’Malley in opposition.