A sign warns motorists that the red light at Bartow Highway and Crystal Lake Drive North is enforced with cameras. | Kimberly C. Moore, LkldNow

Lakeland Police Sgt. Chad Mumbauer told city commissioners on Friday that the city’s 14-year-old red light camera program is working because 85% of the people who receive a $158 ticket do not get cited again.

“If 100 people run that red light, 85 people do not do it again because that wallet hurts,” Mumbauer said. “It’s all about altering behavior. It hits pretty hard.”

“Which is really powerful,” Mayor Bill Mutz replied. “And that saves lives. … That’s the whole purpose of the program.”

LPD briefed the commission because the city’s contract with the company that supplies and monitors the cameras is up for renewal in January.

Commissioner Bill Read admitted he has been the recipient of one of those tickets, which is a civil citation and not a police officer-issued traffic ticket. As such, it does not lead to points on a driver’s license or a court record.

“The biggest component of getting a ticket, it changes my behavior,” said Read, to the chuckles of people in the agenda study meeting. He told LkldNow that he was turning left at Memorial and Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd when the car in front of him stopped and he got caught in the middle of the intersection.

Close calls caught on camera

Mumbauer showed a compilation video to city commissioners of the red light cameras’ greatest hits — and near misses.

A powerful video by Verra Mobility shows 17 red light violations in 1 minute, 24 seconds. Many drivers nearly caused serious accidents. All got citations. | City of Lakeland

In one undated incident, at the same intersection where Read was caught, a Dodge Charger runs the red light, slamming into a white passenger van.

Lakeland’s red light camera program began in 2009 with nine cameras at five intersections. In 2013, more cameras and intersections were added. The city currently has 18 red light cameras at 11 intersections.

The system takes video of vehicles that enter an intersection after the light has changed to red.  The video is reviewed by the camera company, Verra Mobility, which then sends the video to Lakeland Police.  An officer and a backup look at the videos and send citations to the owners of those vehicles.

Mumbauer said last year, the department reviewed 1,910 hours of video involving 56,017 drivers. Of those:

  • 25,698 received a citation
  • 30,328 were rejected

The remaining 7,960 either didn’t pay the fine or fought it in court. The first two officers and an additional hearing officer reviewed the video again and the owner then received a uniform traffic citation and had the incident placed on their driving record.

“What we try to do is to be very benevolent,” Mumbauer said. “Our approval rate is actually 45%”

High-priority intersections

Mumbauer and Assistant Police Chief Hans Lehman appeared before the commission to ask to renew the contract with Verra Mobility — formerly known as American Traffic Solutions or ATS — for another five years, add more license plate readers, and move the camera that is currently at South Florida Avenue and Beacon Road to one of two locations: Kathleen Road and George Jenkins Boulevard, East Parker Street and North Florida Avenue, or perhaps both.

“The reason that that site can no longer be used infrastructurally, it can’t be updated to the current camera system,” Mumbauer said. “So we’re operating on outdated equipment. … It needs to be moved back and they can’t put it in the middle of a driveway. So that’s the sole reason that we have to move that camera.”

Tess Schwartz from LPD’s traffic operations said the intersection of North Florida at East Parker Street has seen a number of crashes — about the same number each year over the last five years. At George Jenkins and Kathleen, they’ve seen a spike in “angle” or T-bone crashes. The Florida Department of Transportation is also considering doing a project to slow down the traffic there.

Kathleen and George Jenkins “is going to be an intersection with a lot of pedestrians, as the apartment complex grows, you know, and there’s going to be a lot of movement through there” to Bonnet Springs Park, Mutz said.

Commissioner Chad McLeod asked if they could put cameras in both the suggested locations, a suggestion that both the mayor and Commissioner Stephanie Madden applauded.

Mumbauer said he wanted to make sure he had the personnel to review the video for an extra camera, but “there’s always the option to add cameras for safety, as crashes are increasing.”

The red light camera at Bartow Highway and Crystal Lake Drive North. | Kimberly C. Moore, LkldNow

The city pays Verra Mobility $4,250 a month per camera, plus a portion of the $75 the city receives from the $158 ticket, which also pays the LPD personnel who review the videos.  The remaining $83 goes to the state.  In the past, that money stayed with the city and helped to fund art projects throughout downtown.

Adding another camera would cost the city an additional $51,000 annually.

License plate readers help solve crimes

Mumbauer and Lehman also told commissioners that the license plate readers their 165 squad cars are equipped with are helping to solve crimes and they want to add license plate readers to the 11 intersections where they have cameras.

“It’s an investigative tool,” Lehman said. “We’ve had great success. The sheriff’s office has had great success with following up on major crimes. So it’s, again, just another chance to leverage technology to help us be more efficient.”

Lehman told city officials in February — when only 120 of the squad cars were equipped with license plate readers — that they had scanned 250,000 license plates in just two weeks. Before the readers, officers and deputies had to type license plate numbers into their onboard computers by hand.

The Commission is expected to discuss the issue and vote on it at its two meetings in September.

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Kimberly C. Moore, who grew up in Lakeland, has been a print, broadcast and multimedia journalist for more than 30 years. Before coming to LkldNow in the spring of 2022, she was a reporter for four years with The Ledger, first covering Lakeland City Hall and then Polk County schools. She is the author of “Star Crossed: The Story of Astronaut Lisa Nowak," published by University Press of Florida. Reach her at kimberly@lkldnow.com or 863-272-9250.

Join the Conversation


  1. If you feel you are innocent, then dispute it. do not back down, This does not solve a problem with some cameras. I had one for turning left on a red light when I had a green arrow. I had to prove it in the court, the police said they could not see that I was right, I had to video record light showing that it was a green arrow, then the red straight thru light turns green as I am passing thru….their camera did not show a green arrow….I won in court but this was my time……wasted. The police just try and make everyone guilty….

  2. I just wish local LEOs paid more attention to Florida Statute 316.293, and actually enforced it.

  3. More accidents happen due to these cameras. People step on the gas to beat the red light when it turns yellow. .

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