The Baton Rouge Police Department hopes to start incorporating live feeds of the red light cameras into the Real Time Crime Center. Chief Murphy Paul said this could help the department track a suspect’s movement through new, advanced technology.

“If there was a robbery that happened and we were looking for a specific vehicle, we could download that into our software and say ‘hey we are looking for a red vehicle’ and the software would look for a red vehicle,” Paul said.

Baton Rouge Chief Administrative Officer Darryl Gissel said the verbiage of the new contract with Verra Mobility, the traffic camera company, allows BRPD to access those live camera feeds. Gissel said it also allows the city-parish to add more red light cameras if city leaders choose to do so. We have requested a copy of that recently approved one-year contract and will update this story when that is made available.

Chief Paul said, currently, BRPD has to request camera footage from Verra Mobility, then wait for the footage to get to them. That time spent waiting could slow down an investigation.

BRPD is in the construction process of the Real Time Crime Center. Chief Paul said he hopes to have it up and running by the summer, but the timeline depends on when the department receives federal grant money. 

Paul and other proponents argue the cameras can improve public safety. Gissel said, if someone has received a red light camera ticket, there’s only a 16 percent chance they’ll ever get one again. 

On the flip side, those who have argued against the red light cameras point out that the city-parish currently does not take extra steps to collect on unpaid tickets. 

“I’ve had many people tell me I’m a fool to pay those tickets because they do not,” Baton Rouge driver Vicky Valle said.

Gissel said leaders are taking steps towards changing ordinances to allow the city-parish to collect on unpaid tickets. Any of those changes would, however, require action from the Metro Council.

We put in a records request with the city-parish to see how many Baton Rouge drivers challenged a red light camera ticket in 2018. What we found is that around one in five drivers, specifically 21 percent, challenged a ticket and won their case. In total, 740 people challenged a traffic camera ticket in East Baton Rouge in 2018.

Keep in mind, the legality of the red light cameras is in question. A pair of Louisiana lawyers filed a lawsuit arguing the city’s Home Rule Charter means BRPD is the entity that should be enforcing those tickets.

The lawyers involved in the case have won traffic camera suits in the past, but Gissel argues Baton Rouge is different than the parishes where the courts ruled against the cameras. Gissels said BRPD reviews the traffic camera footage before a citation is issued, and people are allowed to challenge the tickets.

We talked with one of the lawyers involved in the case. A hearing to decide if a class action lawsuit is appropriate given the number of tickets issued is scheduled for February 26.