Longview police have sent out more than 300 warnings this month to red-light runners caught by the city's new red-light traffic safety cameras.
By the time all pending warnings are issued, police say, more than 400 violators will have been caught by cameras at three intersections during the monthlong "warning period."
Starting Feb. 1, police will begin issuing $124 tickets to drivers caught running red lights at selected intersections on Ocean Beach Highway.
"Our goal is to stop red-light violators and prevent collisions and injuries that result from running a red light, especially those at excessive speeds," Longview Police Capt. Jim Duscha said in a press release Wednesday. "The citation warnings issued so far show drivers are making dangerous decisions at intersections."
Duscha said the cameras register vehicle speeds, although the cameras won't be used to issue speeding violations. Still, he said the cameras have recorded some drivers zipping through intersections at speeds of up to 81 mph.
"We have seen some shocking speeds on Ocean Beach," he said.
He also warns that drivers will be cited for rolling "California stops" before taking right turns at red lights. Drivers must come to a complete stop before turning on red, he said.
Eight cameras are posted at the following intersections:
• Eastbound and westbound on Ocean Beach Highway at 15th Avenue
• Eastbound and westbound on Ocean Beach Highway at NW Nichols Boulevard
• All four intersection approaches on Ocean Beach Highway and 38th Avenue.
The City Council agreed last year to conduct the 18-month pilot program after years of debating whether to install them. Wednesday, some old critics of the idea said they would again try to scuttle the effort.
An opposition group led by Longview resident Mike Wallin announced it will try again to gather enough signatures to force a public vote on use of red-light cameras in the city. The group would need to collect 2,766 valid signatures to get its initiative on the ballot.
"We firmly believe that Longview's citizens oppose this Big Brother, profit-making policy and oppose the process by which it was adopted," the group wrote in a letter to the City Council.
The initiative would repeal an ordinance allowing the cameras. It also would require voter approval for the city to install red-light cameras in the future.
Rick Hightower, who lives near the intersection of Ocean Beach Highway and NW Nichols Boulevard, said Wednesday's he's not surprised police already have issued hundreds of warnings to red-light runners.
"Those cameras are flashing all the time," Hightower said.
The flashes of the surveillance cameras don't bother Hightower, but he hates the idea of a camera keeping an eye on drivers, and he thinks the city is wasting its time and money.
"Cars still drive 60 to 70 mph out here," he said.
Some drivers say the camera flashes distract them and make them uneasy when they turn left on a yellow light.
The flashes also seem to go off for no apparent reason, said Charlotte Giles, program supervisor at Faith Family Christian Center, located at the corner of Ocean Beach Highway and 38th Avenue. Giles said cameras sometimes flash when she is driving through the intersection on a green light.
"It's very distracting," she said. "It actually makes me more nervous."
Wanda Wagner, a secretary at Faith Family, said she also gets distracted by the lights, especially when they flash at night.
"You hope it makes it safer," Wagner said. "But some people are going to drive cruddy no matter what."