Photo radar may be gone in Ontario, but it’s not forgotten.
Just ask Guelph Police Chief Bryan Larkin, who’s among a growing chorus of officials in Ontario calling for a return of the controversial policing tool in order to save on costs.
“We have ongoing challenges with the escalation of policing costs,” said Larkin. “Our resources are stretched to the limit.”
Larkin says the 195 officers who work for the Guelph Police Service are being increasingly swamped by the growing demand for service in a community that’s quickly growing.
“We’re expanding, particularly to the east, to the south, to the west,” he said. “We have over 400 signalized intersections, we have 70 school zones with a public policy change around enhancing safety around school zones.”
Larkin added cyclist and pedestrian collisions on the rise, and there’s the ongoing challenge of dealing with other priority crimes.
“We’re faced with illicit drugs and large scale complex investigations that draw resources,” he said.
Larkin, along with Guelph Mayor Karen Farbridge and Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair are among some of the high profile officials who have recently called for the return of the controversial policing technology.
“I understand its an unpopular discussion,” Larkin said.
What makes photo radar so unpopular is its efficiency. During the 11 months in 1994 Ontario used the technology, 240-thousand tickets worth more than $16 million were issued to drivers.
It proved so unpopular that Premier Mike Harris campaigned on a promise to scrap photo radar when he was elected in 1994.
Twenty years later, the technology remains as controversial as ever and Larkin admits the political will may not exist to see photo radar’s eventual return.
“Regrettably as a chief of police my role is to advocate on behalf of community safety, whether there’s a political will or not that’s for other people to decide,” he said.
Before municipalities could administer a local photo radar program, the province would need to make amendments to the Highway Traffic Act and it appears that will not happen anytime soon.
Guelph isn’t the first city to express an interest in photo radar, Ottawa city council voted unanimously to install photo radar in 2006, but the effort was halted by the province.
More recently, Finance Minister Charles Sousa said “unequivocally” that the province would not bring back photo radar as a means of raising revenues.
Thursday, the Ministry of Transportation said in an e-mail, “Ontario does not have any plans to bring in photo radar in any form.”