The mayor and police superintendent want the Illinois General Assembly to give Chicago permission to use cameras to catch speeders. They say it is a way to protect children near schools and parks, while critics suggest the cash-strapped city is looking for a new revenue stream.
Since 2007, four students trying to cross South Damen at 13th Street to get to UIC College Prep Charter School were hit by passing cars. Eighteen-year-old Juana Labra survived her injuries.
"I actually had physical therapy for three months, and because of physical therapy I had to miss three weeks of school," said Labra.
Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said speed cameras stationed in a quarter-mile radius around schools and parks are a "no brainer" for slowing traffic. He said cameras also would help police investigate criminal incidents near schools.
"By making people slow down, this would in fact would be coupled with our crime initiative and be incredibly helpful in reducing crime in the city," said McCarthy.
The city reports that between 2005 and 2009, over 84 percent of vehicle-caused pedestrian injuries occurred near schools and parks.
A separate analysis revealed that 25 percent of cars and trucks speed through school zones.
"We've got young children who are crossing to go to school. We've got to make sure people are paying a lot of attention," said CPS CEO Jean Claude Brizard.
The Emanuel administration is asking state lawmakers to pass a bill allowing the city to use existing red light cameras and newly stationed equipment to record speeds and fine those who exceed the limit.
City Council public safety committee chairman Alderman James Balcer says he would not object if the cameras were stationed on Lake Shore Drive.
"We need to slow down traffic. There are people that cross on Lake Shore Drive," said Balcer.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel would not answer yes or no when asked if the city had a long-term plan to expand the use of speed cams as a revenue generator.
"I want to make sure that people driving near a school or park have a deterrence, and we have to keep our kids safe," said Emanuel.
Under the terms of House Bill 3851, which is already filed in Springfield, a school zone speeding violation would cost the owner of the offending vehicle $100.
If the bill makes it through the General Assembly in current form and is signed by the governor it would only apply to the City of Chicago.