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Police Apologize After Issuing Faulty Photo Radar Tickets

BOULDER, Colo. (CBS4) - Everyone wants drivers to be safe in school zones. Many jurisdictions drop the speed limit around schools during certain hours of the day, and they use photo radar to enforce those lower speed limits.

That is the case along Folsom Street outside Columbine Elementary School in Boulder.

"The emphasis is safety in a school zone, and making sure the kids can cross the street," said City of Boulder Police Deputy Chief Curt Johnson.

Mike Robinson drives down Folsom Street every day. He's aware of the school zone, and that photo radar is often set up in the area. Robinson was surprised when he got a photo radar ticket.

"When I saw the ticket a couple of weeks later that said I was going 32 in a 20, I didn't think that was right," Robinson told CBS4.

Thirty-two miles per hour in a 20 mph zone is a school zone violation and carries a double fine of $80. But Robinson remembers a different scenario.

"I didn't see the flashing light when I went through," he said.

Robinson noticed that the school zone lights were even off in the photo radar picture. Robinson went to the area and took pictures and timed the lights. He even went to the traffic light engineer for the City of Boulder and got a report that shows the school zone flash times. It shows that along Folsom Street the lights flash between 7:40 a.m. and 8:20 a.m.

"My ticket was at almost 8:24 … so … 4 minutes difference … that's kind of hard to justify that that was legal," Robinson explained.

CBS4 took what Robinson found to the Boulder Police Department.

"That ticket has been dismissed," Johnson told CBS4.

A look back at the tickets given that day showed three others issued after the lights were off. Each of those tickets were also dismissed or refunded.

"We've gone back and reviewed all of our violations that occurred in any school zone to make sure we caught any that were issued in error," Johnson said.

The city found four more school zone tickets issued outside school zone flash times. Each of those four were dismissed or refunded as well.

"This was clearly a mistake on behalf of one employee who operates a photo radar van," Johnson explained.

The deputy chief said the operator neglected to reset the system at the right time resulting in tickets being issued after the school zone ended. He told CBS4 that the problem has been fixed.

"It shouldn't of happened and we're sorry it did. We want to make it right and that's what we'll do," Johnson said.

It's another reminder that paying attention while you drive pays off in many ways.

"That's just easy money in their pocket and I don't think it's right for anybody to get an illegal ticket like that," Robinson added.

Libby Smith is a Special Projects Producer at CBS4. If you have a story you'd like to tell CBS4 about, call 303-863-TIPS (8477) or visit the News Tips section.

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