I-TEAM: Buffalo brought in nearly $2 million in 7-days of school zone ticketing program

Common council moves to limit ticketing hours
Posted at 5:16 PM, Nov 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-09 10:59:00-05

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — The City of Buffalo is out-pacing America’s largest city on the amount of school zone tickets it’s handing out to drivers.

Data in a report for the week of 10/13/2020-10/21/2020 on the School Zone Safety Program obtained by the 7 Eyewitness News I-Team, shows 35,656 tickets were issued in the first seven days the cameras were operational.

But, cameras were only operational in a quarter of the school zones available in Buffalo.

There are 20 school zones with dozens of cameras in the City, but only five zones (nine cameras) are active now.

To compare — New York City has 750 operational cameras and tickets about 6,121 drivers per day, compared to the 5,636 drivers ticketed in Buffalo on October 14 with only nine operational cameras.

These cameras that are operational are outside of private schools allowing students to learn in-person at this time, but the Buffalo Public Schools are planning to start bringing back students by December which would add a number of zones, and a lot of potential revenue, in the City of Buffalo.

“I’m glad you brought up the numbers, I’m glad you brought up the percentages,” said Buffalo councilman Ulysees Wingo, responding to the statistic. “Because New York City, even with their 750 cameras, they have compliance. That goes to show that people can be trained to follow the law. People respond to consequences.”

During a transportation committee meeting Wednesday, The City’s Parking Commissioner Kevin Helfer backed that the compliance rate increased with the longevity of program implementation and suggested the common council not limit hours during the day.

“Enforcement rather than being warned, or let go, yields the strongest impact when looking at driver education.”

He tells 7 Eyewitness News that in the first week of the cameras being fully operational the majority of drivers were compliant with the school zone.

In that same 7-day period, 226,475 people passed the active cameras and 190,819 were not ticketed for speeding.

That’s nearly an 85% compliance rate.

Helfer said there are between 900-1100 accidents per month in Buffalo and a pedestrian or bicyclist is hit in Buffalo every single day, according to his data.

He said this data is for all areas of the City, not just in and around schools.

Members of the common council voted March 17 to limit the time drivers could be ticketed to arrival times from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. and dismissal times from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. instead of during the entire day.

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown vetoed that measure seven months later on October 9.

His administration tells the Buffalo News he was able to veto this law outside of the normal ten-day window because of Governor Cuomo’s NY PAUSE order which gave him more time to address the legislation.

Brown vetoed the limited hours one business day before the cameras went live.

It was his very first veto across four terms, and 16 years as Buffalo’s mayor.

We asked the Mayor Thursday whether this was move was just a revenue-generating measure.

“I don’t think we should put the desire for people to speed above the safety of our children,” he said.

He defended the extended hours and said it was about safety, not a money-grab.

Councilmember Ulysses Wingo is frustrated people are outraged over consequences for breaking the law.

“No one wants that to be their child laying up in a hospital bed,” he said. “No one cares about the fine at that point.”

Digging into the data — the schools with the longest hours and highest amount of traffic are bringing in the revenue for the City of Buffalo lead by St. Joseph’s on Main Street which tickets speeders from 7 am to 3 pm followed by Buffalo Promise Neighborhood Children’s Academy on Bailey which tickets drivers from 7 am to 6 pm.

The Commissioner said the City believes issuing non-moving violations at $50/ticket is a “friendlier” measure than having police officers ticket drivers for speeding in school zones.

“Tickets (issued by the police) for speeding in a school zone could cost up to $1,288 dollars and yield 11 points on one's license,” he said.

Councilmember Rasheed Wyatt tells us he thinks the $1.7 million in revenue generated the first week of this program is “obscene”.

He says the common council has the votes it needs to overturn the mayor’s veto and limit camera hours.

The vote may happen as soon as next Tuesday.