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Emanuel says red-light cameras ‘have to be 100 percent right’

Red light camerLaSalle Kinzie Chicago. Photographed Tuesday May 14 2013. | Al Podgorski~Chicago Sun-Times

Red light camera at LaSalle and Kinzie in Chicago. Photographed on Tuesday, May 14, 2013. | Al Podgorski~Chicago Sun-Times

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Updated: July 24, 2014 5:27PM

Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Thursday he’s “angry” about the unexplained spike that generated at least 9,000 questionable red-light camera tickets at a dozen Chicago intersections and said the system “has to be 100 percent right” to be trusted.

One day after offering to review those violations and refund fines if the tickets were issued in error, Emanuel acknowledged that City Hall has work to do to restore public trust severely shaken by a Chicago Tribune investigation.

“If the 9,000 or any one of `em is wrong, they’re gonna get a refund because they deserve it,” the mayor said.

“There should be no inequity in the system. There should be no aberration. And a company, even though it’s a small percentage less than one percent, it has to be 100 percent right for there to be trust.”

Emanuel said the city is now holding weekly meetings with Xerox State & Local Solutions Traffic Solutions, the new red-light camera contractor, to stay on top of ticket spikes that telegraph enforcement or equipment problems so City Hall is not blind-sided like they were with results of the Tribune’s review of four million tickets.

And he’s hoping daily violations posted on the internet for each of the city’s 352 red-light cameras will help restore public confidence in the system.

Earlier this week, Transportation Commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld promised to hold Arizona-based Redflex Traffic Solutions, the fired contractor tied to a $2 million bribery scandal, responsible for any refunds.

But she categorically rejected a demand by the chairman of the City Council’s Transportation Committee to shut down the entire red-light program.

On Thursday, Emanuel did the same.

“I am angry if the system isn’t operable, which is why, as soon as there were questions with the way they operated, I fired the company. That is what I had within my power and, within short order, they were fired,” Emanuel said.

“The red-light camera operates here like it operates in other cities. And it has reduced… dangerous accidents, which are the side-swipes. So, it has worked on the safety side. But to be an operative system, it must have the public trust.”

In question are 9,000 tickets spewed out at a dozen intersections that suddenly generated at least five times their average number of violations. The motorists who received those tickets will get letters telling them of the chance for another review.

Why not just throw out all of those tickets?

“There’s gonna be a process because there’s video and there’s photos. That’s how we’re gonna go forward. That’s how we did it in the past,” Emanuel said.

“You don’t want to set up a system that’s something different — even though there’s a third review — [because] other people will say, `Why did they get to do that and we don’t?’ ”

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