Justin Schatz is The Paper's daily news reporter. He has reported on New Mexico for KRQE News, Searchlight NM and the Santa Fe Reporter.

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Last Friday Mayor Tim Keller signed a new mobile speed van ordinance into law, bringing back automated speed enforcement to Albuquerque. The ordinance was approved by City Council in an 8-1 vote to combat speeding in the city. According to the city, automated speed enforcement will be placed in areas of the city prone to excessive speeding. The city’s crime initiative comes after a recommendation by Vision Zero to increase public safety.

This isn’t the first time that the city has utilized automated speed enforcement. According to the Albuquerque Journal, the city saw its first speed vans in 2006. These were primarily used in school zones but then expanded to interstates and neighborhoods. In 2011 residents voted to end automated speed and red light camera enforcement. At the time, the red light camera enforcement was contracted to Redflex, a private company that provides vehicle monitoring and enforcement services to government, police and traffic departments. The company had a history of haggling drivers over unpaid fines.   

In 2016 the company settled a $3.5 million lawsuit with the city. The lawsuit nullified the remaining uncollected fines, and anyone that had received a call from the company was eligible for up to $200. 

Even with Albuquerque’s past relationship with automated speed enforcement, city leaders hope this could be a potentially new and more successful chapter for automated speed enforcement in the city. 

But this new agreement with Vision Zero begs the question: What will be different about these mobile speed vans than the previous agreements with private traffic enforcement companies?

According to city public information officer Ava Montoya, lawmakers and community leaders are keen not to repeat the mistakes made by Redflex, especially haggling over unpaid tickets or questionable citations. “The registered owner of the vehicle will receive a civil citation in the mail, after which they can pay the fine or opt for community service in lieu of payment. There will also be an opportunity for an appeal hearing with each citation.” Each citation will also be reviewed by an officer, as opposed to an automated speeding ticket being sent out. How much will it cost you? The city says violators will face a fine of $100 according to state law.

Adhering to promises of tackling speeding through an equity lens and not placing an additional financial burden on financially vulnerable residents, those who do receive a ticket will have the option of repaying their tickets through a different means. “One of the equity considerations in this policy is that there will be an option for community service in lieu of fine to ensure that all have the opportunity to settle their citations,” Montoya said. How much community service? The number of hours of community service will be determined by the fine assessed by an officer. It could be as many as four hours or more.

When asked about how this new speed enforcement will differ from its Redflex predecessor, Montoya responded, “The automated speed enforcement technology is very different from red-light cameras because they are only activated when speeding occurs, as opposed to the red light cameras, which were continuously monitoring and collecting data. The mobile enforcement devices will also be calibrated to only cite drivers who are going upwards of 10 miles over the speed limit. The goal isn’t to issue petty citations, it’s to crack down on the aggressive, dangerous speeding that is taking lives.”

Drivers can expect to see these speed vans around town in mid to late winter.