CHICAGO | Chicago's new speed cameras have clocked almost 205,000 violations in just over a month.
The cameras, in nine safety zones near schools and parks, logged the speeding violations between Aug. 26 and Oct. 3, issuing 204,743 warnings to lead-footed drivers, according to figures obtained by WBEZ radio through a Freedom of Information Act request.
For now, authorities are issuing only warnings to drivers caught speeding on those cameras, but fines will be levied starting Oct. 21. If the violations had been tickets, they could have generated nearly $13.9 million for the city in just 39 days, according to the radio station.
At that pace, the city could rack up hundreds of millions of dollars a year — well beyond the $40 million to $60 million in extra revenue that Mayor Rahm Emanuel predicted for next year.
But the larger-than-expected number of citations is prompting criticism from some who say the cameras are more about making money for the city than protecting children and pedestrians.
"I cannot deny that, if those cameras are there, people are gonna slow down," said Alderman Leslie Hairston, who opposed the speed cameras. "But call it what it is. Don't try to sell us on the safety of children and parks and schools."
The mayor's office says it's expecting a dramatic decrease in speeding because of the cameras, which are near schools and parks. City officials said some camera locations have already seen speeding violations decline an average 50 percent.
Officials say Chicago has about 3,000 crashes between vehicles and pedestrians a year, including about 800 that involve children.
Drivers caught on camera going between 6 and 10 mph above the speed limit will be assessed $35 fines. Fines of $100 will be issued to anyone going faster, although first-time offenders will receive a "free" warning.
Transportation officials say they hope to have more than 100 cameras at about 50 locations by early 2014.