Chicago speed cameras hurt low-income communities most

January 12, 2022

Illinois Policy Institute investigation found nearly half of Chicago’s $1 million-plus speed cameras were on the South Side

PRESS RELEASE from the
ILLINOIS POLICY INSTITUTE

CONTACT: Melanie Krakauer (312) 607-4977

Chicago speed cameras hurt low-income communities most
Illinois Policy Institute investigation found nearly half of Chicago’s $1 million-plus speed cameras were on the South Side

CHICAGO (Jan. 12, 2022) — Since the city of Chicago reduced its speed cameras to a 6 mph ticketing threshold, low income communities on the South Side have paid a disproportionate share of the burden.

An Illinois Policy Institute investigation of Chicago’s 160 speed cameras found nearly half of the 19 cameras generating $1 million or more in tickets were based on the South Side. These eight cameras brought in nearly 20% of the total revenue from speed cameras citywide.

In addition, the city’s most lucrative speed camera, issuing $3.1 million in fines during the first 10 months of 2021, was also on the South Side in Ward 20.

“You’ve got poor people already struggling and the city adds more fines and fees to tickets? That shows you the priorities – and it’s not working class, poor people and majority Black communities. It’s about revenue,” said Chicago Ward 20 Ald. Jeanette Taylor, who added constituents contact her about the speed cameras “all the time.”

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot attempted to ease the financial burden on low-income residents by cutting ticket fees in half for Chicagoans making less than $38,640 a year. She issued a press release Jan. 11 touting a study that claimed a reduction in crashes from automated traffic cameras.

But the study also found half of needy drivers face penalties that more than double the price of tickets. It did not address the eight-fold spike in tickets since Lightfoot lowered the speeding tolerance to 6 mph March 1.

Institute experts questioned the cost-benefit ratio, as struggling Chicago drivers are used as revenue grab.

“Low-income Chicagoans already face a slew of high taxes and fees to prop up the city’s flailing budget. These speed camera tickets are not about public safety, they’re another tactic used to garner revenue,” said Adam Schuster, senior director of budget and tax research at the Illinois Policy Institute. “Rather than nickel-and-diming city residents with regressive fines and fees, the city should look to fix its structural overspending with reforms to cost drivers such as pensions.”

To view the full report, “Chicago’s $1 million-plus speed cameras hurting low-income areas,” visit illin.is/speedcamsouth.

For bookings or interviews, contact media@illinoispolicy.org or (312) 607-4977.