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Wednesday, March 8, 2023

School Speed Enforcement

Mayor, city council coping with complaints

Efficiency is an excellent goal for any organization, especially a city government. Sometimes, the process to automate a process in the name of efficiency is, well, horribly inefficient. Just ask Shreveport Mayor Tom Arceneaux.

Arceneaux, the Shreveport City Council and administration officials continue to work through issues with a school zone traffic enforcement camera system. The system from Blue Line Solutions has generated a large number of complaints over the tickets issued by the automated system.

The city is taking steps to mitigate those complaints. In one of those steps, the city council heard the first reading of an ordinance that would do away with a requirement for a $50 deposit to appeal any ticket from the Blue Line system. That ordinance is expected to pass at the March 14 city council meeting.

“People will be able to appeal without having to pay any fee or deposit,” Arceneaux said. “That was a major sticking point with members of the public.”

The administration also is addressing concerns about the hours of enforcement for the school zones. Many citizens have complained about tickets issued outside of school zone enforcement hours. Arceneaux has worked with the council to define what those hours will be.

“There are at least four and possibly five members of the council who prefer to have two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon,” Arceneaux said. “That was not our recommendation. Our recommendation was one hour in the morning and one hour in the afternoon. We are going to follow the policy direction of the council and make those two hours.”

The two-hour enforcement windows will be determined by when each type of school lets in and releases its students. Elementary school zones will be enforced from 6:30 to 8:30 a.m. and from 2 to 4 p.m. School zones for middle and K-8 schools will be from 7 to 9 a.m. and from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. And high school zones will be enforced from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. and 2:30 to 4:30 p.m.

Enforcement for private school zones will begin one hour before the school starts to let in and let out students. Arceneaux said those zones would also be enforced for a two-hour time frame.

The city will install new signs to post the designated enforcement hours in each school zone. The city also will begin the process of installing flashing lights in school zones that do not currently have them.

“We’re hoping to have all that fixed by end of spring break on March 20,” the mayor said. “That gives us time to put those things in place.”

Arceneaux added that Blue Line has agreed to put a local person in place to field complaint calls about the system at the company’s expense.

“We think that should take care of most of the complaints,” Arceneaux said. “That’s where we decided to go.”

Arceneaux said the city is looking for every option to improve the system at this time. Canceling the contract and removing the cameras would be cost-prohibitive, he said. Terminating the agreement at this point would cost $70,000 per location – more than $1 million.

While the system has generated a number of complaints that have consumed much of the mayor’s time, it also is fulfilling its purpose, he said.

“A lot of tickets have been issued,” he said. “It seems to me that most of the tickets have been issued for peoples who were, in fact, speeding in a school zone. We are mindful of the complaints the citizens have made, and we’re listening to those and trying to respond to them.”

To that end, the city will increase its supervision of issuing the tickets to reduce the mistakes that have been made, Arceneaux said.

The mayor said the city does not have the personnel to put crossing guards and patrol officers in every school zone and that the Blue Line cameras can be an effective means to do that.

“We just have to make it fairer,” he said. “Hopefully, these changes will do that.”

Arceneaux said discussions would continue with the city council, Blue Line and the public. He is optimistic that the system will improve before the next school year begins in the fall.

“We think that this will be a workable situation,” he said. “We think Blue Line will cooperate with these changes. We have the ability to make them unilaterally, but we have as a courtesy been discussing it with Blue Line. Both sides have had some give and take, and the citizens have had some give and take. Hopefully, we will come up with a program the vast majority of the public will feel comfortable with.”


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