Illinois will stop collecting fines on unpaid red-light tickets

The state of Illinois will stop collecting fines against drivers who are ticketed after cameras catch them violating red lights, Comptroller Susana Mendoza said Monday.

Mendoza said poor and minority motorists appear to be most affected by the $100 tickets, which can double if not timely paid. She also noted a federal investigation of relationships between some communities and a red light vendor.

The new policy starts Feb. 6.

“This system is clearly broken,” Mendoza said. “I am exercising the moral authority to prevent state resources being used to assist a shady process that victimizes taxpayers.”

A 2012 state law allows local governments to use the comptroller’s office to collect debts. Unpaid traffic tickets, for example, can be deducted from tax refunds.

The state collected $11 million on behalf of 60 Chicago-area communities last year, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

Mendoza said communities can hire private debt collectors instead.

“I think it’s critical that the state’s collection mechanisms should not be hijacked by political insiders to profit from an enforcement system whose integrity is now being seriously questioned,” she said.

SafeSpeed LLC, which provides cameras, has denied wrongdoing.

“We don’t pay people off,” chief executive Nikki Zollar said in October.