January 31, 2011; Source: NBC Los Angeles | Could this be the next craze in “mobile” giving? A Murrieta council member has proposed that instead of pocketing its share of fines collected from offenders caught on automated cameras running red lights, the Southern California city donate that money to local charities.

Although the cameras, which are installed at three intersections, are really intended to reduce traffic accidents, many residents feel the fines, which can be as high as $500, are just a way for the city to raise money. At a recent council meeting, Councilman Rick Gibbs suggested the donation scheme as a way to overcome the community’s likely resistance to the city’s plans to install two more cameras.

Gibbs says the fines some people pay are “just wrong.” He estimates that after covering expenses for cameras, salaries of police who review the footage, as well as giving the state and Riverside County its share, Murietta is left with about $5,000. “Having an extra $5,000 might not be that much in the grand scheme of things, but it might be important for one of those charities,” he said.—Bruce Trachtenberg