Hillside residents question village officials on red light camera money

An ABC7 I-Team Investigation
HILLSIDE, Ill. (WLS) -- Residents in west suburban Hillside are questioning leaders in the village about where the revenue from red light camera tickets is being used.

An ABC7 I-Team and Chicago Sun Times investigation uncovered which suburbs are making the most money off the cameras. Monday night, at a monthly Hillside village meeting, there were questions about the red light cameras.

Roger Romanelli: "Will there be a committee for the public?"
Mayor Joseph Tamburino: "I'm not answering that, I'm not answering that!"
Roger Romanelli: "About the dialogue, about the dollars that have been taken in?"

Romanelli, a community activist, and other residents are demanding answers and accountability following the joint investigation. They want to know where the $8 million Hillside collected went.

"We need to know why we have the cameras, we need to know what we are doing with the money. Especially in Hillside, many neighborhoods don't have sidewalks, so we need much better safety," he said.

The I-Team's public records request revealed that Hillside generated $8 million in green over red light camera violations from 2014 through 2016. The mayor said the village ended up with $5.1 million after paying other fees and the red light camera company.

"That money, by law, goes into the general fund of the village in every town that has the program. Since we started this program we have done $3,186,000 in specific streets, patch repair, fixing manholes, fixing whatever we have to," Tamburino said.

Hillside was no. 3 on the I-Team's list of top moneymakers. Melrose Park was no. 2 with $8.3 million and Berwyn topped the list with $8.5 million.

The investigation also found that 90 towns with red light cameras made more than $160 million during the same time period. The totals, for the first time, surpassed what the city of Chicago makes.

Making many drivers everywhere angry was that several insiders and community leaders told the I-Team about 95 percent of red light camera tickets are issued for right on red turns.

The I-Team saw dozens of people getting right on red tickets dismissed at hearings in Berwyn and Dolton Some of them had made a complete stop.

One company which runs cameras in most of the top grossing suburbs said "some" errors are unavoidable, and they try to minimize them. State law says sworn officers must review tickets before they're issued.

Mayor Tamburino also said that another $1.5 million went to water pipe repairs. Some residents remain critical because the red light camera money does go into what's known as a "general fund" which critics say means little to no accountability.
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