Illinois will stop collecting on unpaid red-light tickets

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CHICAGO — The state of Illinois will stop collecting fines against drivers who are ticketed after cameras catch them violating red lights in the suburbs, Comptroller Susana Mendoza said Monday.

Mendoza said poor and minority motorists appear to be most affected by the $100 tickets, which can double if not timely paid. She also noted a federal investigation of relationships between some communities and a red light vendor.

The new policy starts Feb. 6.

“This system is clearly broken,” Mendoza said. "I am exercising the moral authority to prevent state resources being used to assist a shady process that victimizes taxpayers.”

A 2012 state law allows local governments to use the comptroller's office to collect debts. Unpaid traffic tickets, for example, can be deducted from tax refunds.

Last year, the Comptroller’s Office collected $11 million from 60 communities, keeping $20 a ticket, or about $1 million.  But Mendoza says it’s not worth it.

She said communities can hire private debt collectors instead.  But Mendoza is urging municipalities to reconsider using the technology altogether.

“I think it’s critical that the state’s collection mechanisms should not be hijacked by political insiders to profit from an enforcement system whose integrity is now being seriously questioned,” she said.

SafeSpeed LLC, which provides cameras, has denied wrongdoing.

"We don’t pay people off,” chief executive Nikki Zollar said in October.

Mendoza said the state has never collected unpaid fines from red light tickets issued in the city of Chicago because of a lack of reliable data.

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