Sunday, November 29, 2009

Maryland Lawmaker, DC Parking Scofflaw

In March of this year a poster to the website NowPublic.com caught one state lawmaker, Delegate Craig L Rice (D, Montgomery County, District 15) in the act of illegally parking in DC. When confronted by the Baltimore Sun about it his response was that he had only been there for a few minutes would have moved along if a police or parking enforcement officer had asked him to move.

Well it turns out that someone with Maryland license plate number 46A (the same as Rice's legislative plate number) was issued a DC parking ticket on that day, in the same area where the NowPublic photo was taken, and as of November 29th, 2009 that citation for $60 was still unpaid.
It is unclear why this citation went unpaid. However we do know that Maryland Lawmakers can receive special legislative license plates for which the state of Maryland pays the fees. We also found many other 'low numbered' license plates in the DC parking ticket database, some dating back 9 or 10 years, so it's possible that DC has a hard time enforcing tickets against plates registered to state governments. However since Delegate Rice voted in favor of Senate Bill 277 authorizing statewide speed cameras in Maryland, we assume he is OK with the idea of being hounded by cameras all time time and being presumed guilty. So we suggest that he 'just pay the fine' as local govt officials in Maryland are keen on telling citizens to do.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

More Maryland Towns Adopt Speed Cams

Frederick City Aldermen voted 4-1 on November 20th to approve the use of speed cameras. Alderman C. Paul Smith who was the sole vote against the cameras, expressed a concern that he had no idea how many cameras might eventually be installed. Mayor Jeff Holtzinger said that he expects the city would make a "boatload of cash" if it put speed cameras along Key Parkway or Shookstown Road. Some city aldermen previously expressed a concern that limiting the cameras to school zones was too confining, but Police Chief Kim Dine said the half-mile radius and the number of schools in the city would create a large area for cameras to operate... indicating that the city may follow the lead of Baltimore and invent new school zones to install cameras in.

Berwyn Heigths has begun selecting locations for its speed cameras. The council already selected Pontiac Street and Edmonston road. The existing 15mph speed limit on Pontiac Street would mean the city will hand out speed camera tickets to drivers who are traveling at the reckless speed of 27mph. The city is planning to create a new school zone on Edmonston road and and expand the existing school zone on Pontiac Street, "Edmonston Road has a tremendous amount of volume, but it's not currently in a school zone," Mayor Calvo said. The town will also ask the SHA for approval to put the cameras on Greenbelt Road (a 6-lane state highway), running from 62nd to Kenilworth avenues. The town has been in discussions with Optotraffic/Sigma Space about using dual red-light/speed cameras. Optotraffic conducted a study for the town to see which locations could ensure a minimum 616 tickets per month (30 tickets per day), since neither the city nor the contractor are willing to accept an arrangement unless both are assured to make money. Under the deal Optotraffic would keep $16 of every speed camera ticket and the town would keep all of the remaining revenue up to 10% of the town's current total budget. Berwyn Heights residents will have a chance to voice their opinions at the Dec. 9 town meeting.

Sykesville (Carroll County) is conducting a study to see if the cameras are viable. 'The Traffic Group, Inc', a Baltimore-based vendor, will do the study free of charge. Town officials will receive the results of that study in their Monday, Nov. 23th meeting. The City of Laurel has begun discussing speed cameras as well, and is investigating whether they will be cost effective. The city's camera's would be in addition to the freeway speed cameras which the state has set up on 65mph I-95 at the ICC construction site.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Baltimore Speed Cameras Used For Surveillance

Officials and Politicians who support speed cameras have often stated "if you don't speed you won't get your picture taken". But in the case of Baltimore City's speed cameras that is apparently not the case, according to a recent story by WBAL. These speed cameras, in addition to taking still photos, are equipt with video capability which is monitored live 24/7.

The cameras all feed into Baltimore City's Metropolitan Transportation Center where the video feeds can be viewed at any time by city workers. "Now as a side note, because it is a camera, we can on occasions look at the...roadway through the camera, because its there. We are using it for surveillance purposes, not that we're monitoring what the actual speeds are," WBAL quotes Randall Scott, Baltimore Traffic Division Director. "From time to time we can call up to look at the video image of the speed cameras," a city official states in a recorded interview.

City officials state that they are not recording this video. However this could be changed at any time the city police choose, assuming they can acquire the sophisticated equipment needed... such as a VCR.

Baltimore is installing 51 speed cameras in "school zones", many of these school zones were not designated as such prior to the introduction of speed cameras. City officials say "most" of the cameras are already installed (no word on whether all the 'school zone' signs are or not). Baltimore's contractor receives a percentage cut of each citation paid. "Transportation department workers are also trained in how to maintain, and calibrate the cameras, by the company that operates them, ACS State and Local Solutions." states WBAL.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Speed Cam Tickets Now For Real

The 30 day waiting period required by Maryland's new speed camera law has elapsed and it now appears that drivers have been receiving tickets from New Carrollton and Baltimore City. It may be that some drivers -- and perhaps some local governments -- are not aware of all of the restrictions on the use of speed cameras in Maryland. Some drivers pay the fines without questioning, but we urge the recipients of those tickets to examine them closely and ensure the following:
- Citations must be for at less than 12mph over the posted speed limit.
- Citations may be mailed no more than 2 weeks (for Maryland drivers) or 30 days (for out of state drivers) after the alleged violation. A citation dated more than 30 days prior is probably not valid, drivers should not accept the explanation that they attempted to mail it earlier. There have been cases of citations mailed with invalid timestamps.
- Citations must inform you of your right to contest a citation in court. You should always specifically request the operator be present or they are not required to present any witness at all.
- Speed cameras can only be set up in properly marked school zones with standardized signage or in highway work zones. A school zone does not automatically exist within 1/2 mile of a school, and both Baltimore City and New Carrollton have created new school zones simply to install cameras. It may be the case that some cameras were installed before signs were posted, this would not be in compliance with state law and ticket recipients should contest that.
- Locations where the cameras are used must include signs stating that photo enforcement is in use.

If you have recently received a citation which they believe to be in violation of one of the above please contact us.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Camera Company Van Caught Breaking State Law

A visitor to our website has videotaped a red-light camera vendor's van in violation of state law. Maryland law requires all vehicles (with the exception of motorcycles, tractors, and trailers) to have both front and back license plate. But red light camera vendor 'LaserCraft' appears to be operating a vehicle in violation of this statute, a vehicle without a front license plate.

We'd encourage LaserCraft to pay the government the $60 fine they owe. And we'd encourage any of our viewers who see such violations to report them to the proper authorities (that would be us). Yes camera pushers, the people whom you would watch are going to be watching you.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Public Rejects Cameras in Texas, Ohio

On November 3rd three US cities put speed and/or red light cameras to a popular vote, and all three voted them down. The People of Chilliccothe, Ohio passed a total ban on speed and red light cameras. Voters in College Station, Texas and Heath, Ohio voted to ban red light cameras. In each of these cities the camera vendors funded PR campaigns to try to affect the outcome of the vote, and in Chillicothe the Mayor tried to get the Ohio supreme court to block the referendum. So far of the 9 US cities where the public was given a direct vote on speed or red light cameras, and the cameras were rejected every time.

Regrettably referendum power in Maryland is pathetic. Perhaps it is time we get a real referendum process or change our lawmakers.

Sources:
TheNewspaper.com
Washington Times