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In about 10 weeks of operation, cameras in Cleveland, Tenn., recorded drivers running red lights nearly 1,000 times.

"It's a public safety issue," said Cleveland Police Capt. John McLain. "The whole thing is geared around safety."

The cameras take videos and still photos of cars that don't stop for red lights, and police review the images and can issue citations to the vehicles' owners.

Officials say the cameras monitor intersections around the clock and keep police and the public safe.

A traffic enforcement officer often would have to cross the red light, too, to catch a violator, putting the officer and other drivers in even more danger, Capt. McLain said.

Using two officers makes enforcement safer, but keeps police from working on other duties, he said.

The Cleveland City Council began exploring placement of the traffic light cameras at certain intersections in 2007 and signed a contract to install five cameras in February 2008.

Some people were concerned the citations would not hold up in court, but the Tennessee attorney general issued an opinion in November that the cameras did not violate constitutional rights.

The city's four-year contract with Traffipax Inc. costs Cleveland $16,750 a month.

"We're kind of breaking even, they're not costing the taxpayers any money," Capt. McLain said.

The cameras brought in about $9,100 in October, nearly $18,000 in November and more than $20,000 in December, records show.

Capt. McLain said that in October that not all of the cameras were operating until late in the month and the spike in December citations was likely because of the higher number of shoppers on the road.

Though numbers are not yet available for January and February, Capt. McLain said an initial look shows citations have leveled off.

He said the department hasn't gotten any direct complaints about the cameras, though the city clerk has had some residents complain while paying fines.

"I think (the public) begrudgingly accepts it," he said, adding most of the comments he's heard have been positive.

South Pittsburg, Tenn., Police Chief Dale Higdon said his town doesn't have any red light cameras, but they would help him free up officers to do other police work.

"We're not that high-tech yet," Chief Higdon said. "It definitely would be a deterrent and, once funds become available, I'd be interested in talking about it."

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