LOS ANGELES, Calif.–With the backing of Police Chief Charlie Beck, the Los Angeles Police Commission today approved the continued use of red light cameras, despite a recent audit questioning their effectiveness.

Beck said the cameras played a vital role in reducing collisions at the 32 intersections where they have been in place since 2006.

“Traditional field enforcement has been unable to sufficiently address this problem, as only seven percent of moving violations written by field personnel are for red light violations,” Beck wrote in his report to the commission.

Beck noted that the number of red-light violation citations jumped from 14,000 to 59,000 a year after the red-light cameras were installed.

In an audit released in September, City Controller Wendy Greuel conceded that there had not been any fatal collisions at the intersections equipped with cameras and that traffic crashes decreased.

But she expressed skepticism that the improvement could be attributed solely to the cameras.

She noted there has been a general reduction in traffic collisions citywide over the last two years because the economic recession has resulted in fewer people driving to work.

The audit also found that although a red light violation carries a fine of $446, and the cameras helped the LAPD issue 45,000 citations in 2009, the program has not netted income for the city.

Rather, according to the audit, the city paid $2.5 million over the last two years to keep the program running.

Greuel explained that the state, county, and court all have a share in the $446 citation, leaving the city with only $157–if it collects anything at all.

The audit found that “39 percent of citations in 2008 had yet not yet been resolved over a year later, and 52 percent of citations issued in 2009 remain unresolved in early 2010.”

Beck conceded in his report that revenues from the cameras have been lower than expected, saying the Superior Court system needs to change its procedures and and use more aggressive collection methods–such as impacting a motorist’s DMV record for failure to pay.

The chief noted that the court refers unpaid fines to a collection agency, but about 56,000 citations still remained unresolved.

The issue will now be forwarded to the City Council’s Audits and Governmental Efficiency and Public Safety committees.