EDISON PARK — Ald. Mary O'Connor (41st) and Chicago firefighter Anthony Napolitano said Tuesday they were concerned a decision to remove a red-light camera outside of St. Juliana School could threaten students' safety.
Two of the 50 red-light cameras Mayor Rahm Emanuel said would be removed are in the 41st Ward, where O'Connor and Napolitano will face each other in the April 7 runoff. One camera is in Norwood Park at Harlem Avenue and Northwest Highway, and the other is near Touhy and Osceola avenues in Edison Park.
Residents concerned about plans to remove the camera near St. Juliana had been contacting the 41st Ward Office for more than a year and a half, O'Connor said in a statement.
"I applaud the mayor's willingness to change course on a policy affecting my ward, I want to ensure it's the right thing for our community," O'Connor said, adding that she would continue to share those concerns with city officials.
"My primary concern is safety, not politics," O'Connor said.
Napolitano, who was a police officer for five years before joining the fire department, said he wanted to know what parents of St. Juliana students thought about the removal of the camera on "such a busy street."
"I have mixed feelings about the red-light cameras," Napolitano said. "Some of the worst things I've seen as a police officer and a firefighter are kids injured in car crashes at intersections."
However, Napolitano said the cameras have been used to fill the city's coffers.
"It is a double-edged sword," Napolitano said. "I'm a fan for the protection of children, but they have been exploited just to make money."
Emanuel said red-light cameras reduce the most dangerous kind of side-impact crashes. All the cameras that will be removed had only one or fewer T-bone crash in 2013, according to state statistics.
Across the city, 174 intersections are monitored by red-light cameras.
The city's red-light camera program has become a hot-button issue in the mayoral runoff between Emanuel and Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia.
Garcia called last week for all of the cameras to be removed, calling the program a rip-off for taxpayers. Emanuel's decision to reduce the number of cameras is pure politics, Garcia said.
Other reforms announced by the mayor would allow drivers snapped running a red light to take an online class in lieu of paying the $100 fine for a first offense, require community meetings before red-light cameras are removed, moved or added and the installation of pedestrian countdown timers at all 42 of the 174 red-light camera intersections that don't have them.
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