Photo Op in Falls Church

Red-light cameras now lead to citations in Falls Church

By Aaron Gilchrist
|  Wednesday, Jan 19, 2011  |  Updated 7:01 PM EDT
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The city of <a title=Falls Church, Va., fired up new red-light cameras this winter and now police are writing tickets." />

Aaron Gilchrist

The city of Falls Church, Va., fired up new red-light cameras this winter and now police are writing tickets.

If you plan to drive through the center of Falls Church, Va., don't risk running red lights.

New red-light cameras were installed along Broad Street at Annadale Road and at Cherry Street. This week, the police department stopped sending out warnings in favor of sending out tickets.

Falls Church police Sgt. Pilar Uelmen said the city just ended its warning period and is now sending violators citations with proof of their offense from sophisticated cameras that can sense when a driver is likely to run a red light.

"When a vehicle is approaching an intersection and not decelerating in an appropriate manner,” said Uelmen said, “the system will engage, will target that vehicle.”

Uelmen said the camera will snap a photo of a license plate twice -- the second time when the car runs the light.

"There's also a video clip that lasts for 12 seconds so the evaluating officer can see the driving behavior just before and immediately after the driving behavior occurs,” Uelmen said. "Every violation is reviewed by a certified law enforcement officer before any sort of summons or warning is issued."

About a block away, warning signs alert drivers to the upcoming cameras.

Police said it's a safety system for cars and walkers. Many residents seem to agree.

"Sometimes they go off. You go past it, but it trips it off and no one goes through the red light. So, there are some faults in it, but all in all I think it's good. It does stop people,” Harry Francis said.

“I think all the people that sped through here before are going to pay more attention to their speed and make it a lot safer for everyone that lives here,” Trish Wu said.

Falls Church Police issued more than 500 citations during the warning period that ended on Tuesday. Now, running a red light at those intersections will cost drivers $50.

The city of Falls Church is one of the smallest in northern Virginia but sees large volumes of traffic along its Broad Street corridor. There are now four cameras intended to catch people who run red lights.

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