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Ald. Beale: Turn off school speed cameras at 4 p.m.

Red light camer S. Blue IslAve S. Damen Ave.  Chicago Monday February 6 2012 . |  John H.

Red light camera at S. Blue Island Ave and S. Damen Ave. in Chicago Monday, February 6, 2012 . | John H. White~Sun-Times.

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Updated: March 17, 2012 10:21AM

An influential alderman wants to put the brakes — sort of — on Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to use red-light cameras and cameras concealed in vans to catch motorists who speed near schools and parks.

Ald. Anthony Beale (9th), chairman of the City Council’s Transportation Committee, said there’s no reason to keep the cameras rolling around schools until 8:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 9 p.m. on Friday when most of the kids are gone by late afternoon.

“Schools are out at 3 p.m., so it shouldn’t run past 4 p.m. — even if there’s an after-school program. There’s no reason for people to be ticketed after 4 p.m. around schools,” said Beale, whose committee must approve legislation implementing the crackdown.

“Parks are a different story because they do stay open a little longer. And parks are heavily used by the kids in the evenings.”

Beale also wants to lower the fines and phase them in even more than state lawmakers did to ease the blow on motorists.

The version approved by state lawmakers calls for drivers caught speeding between six and 10 mph above the speed limit near schools and parks to be slapped with $50 tickets. The fine would rise to $100 for motorists caught going more than 10 mph over the limit.

“People cannot bear any more than we’re putting on ’em right now. We can’t hit you with a high fine if you’re six miles over the speed limit. That’s not right,” Beale said.

“We’re gonna be looking at the price tag. We’re gonna be looking at how many offenses [trigger a ticket]. Maybe we can have it be a gradual thing. First offense, it’s a lower amount. Second offense, a little higher and kind of graduate from there.”

Ald. Pat O’Connor (40th), the mayor’s City Council floor leader, said a 4 p.m. cutoff would not be appropriate in his North Side ward, where schools double as “community centers” that stay open into the evening.

But, even he encouraged the mayor to start slowly — with just a handful of speed cameras — instead of retrofitting all 190 of the city’s red-light cameras. “You need to be cognizant of the fact that this will be a change in the way people drive. . . . In any program, you start small. When we did the red-light cameras, we started with two locations,” he said.

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