Sunday, December 20, 2009

Speed Cameras Soon Coming to Delmarva

The small town of Fruitland, Maryland (Wicomico County, near Salisbury) has signed an ordinance authorizing Speed Monitoring systems. This may make them the first town in the Delmarva area to defraud er I mean protect its citizens with the devices. The town council approved a contract with RedSpeed, a company which, in partnership with Brekford only recently set up shop in Maryland. The town council was lured to the agreement by the chance to receive a discounted rate, and of course a portion of the revenues.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Cheverly Maryland to Lower Speed Limits after Approving Cameras

The town of Chevery, which recently approved the use of speed cameras, is also now discussing lowering the speed limit on one of the main arteries through the town to 20MPH. In the Minutes of a recent town meeting shows how speed limits and sausages are made in this particular Prince George's County Town, and we suspect many other places as well:

"CM Schachter Cheverly Avenue has been 25 mph for a long time, but it has been a problem with speeding. So, I think we should consider lowering Cheverly Avenue to 20 mph. Mayor is there any reason why that would be a problem. Mr. Warrington not regarding enforcement, but it is a Federal Connector with a designated route. An engineer coming out and doing an evaluation will not result in an analysis recommending 20 mph.

CM Schachter
I think an engineer will tell us you can’t have something slower. We can make a political decision to make it lower. Mr. Warrington that is the key phrase political. The Maryland Uniform Traffic Code is set-up to prevent political decisions to set it at 6 mph. The engineer looks at the capacity, volume and capabilities of the road. If you ignore this and lower it you will have all the tickets thrown out and you will have greater liability.

Mr. Colaresi
State law does not allow it. It says after a study and you are lowering below 25 mph then you must have a really good reason. David is correct in that the engineers follow certain standards. It is not true that lower is safer. Mr. Schachter then we do have the possibility of picking a speed limit that is lower provided we have a good reason. Mr. Colaresi I would rather let the process happen and then look at this issue.

Mayor
we need to see if is there a consensus on the Council that we would like to see Cheverly Avenue as 20 mph and see what the engineering study results are. I am attempting to narrow this discussion so we can logically look at each and every street. Is the Council tonight, for discussion purposes, dropped to 20 mph or defer to the Worksession. CM Watson I would like to see it 20 mph, but only if we aren’t going to lose funding or something else. Mayor we will look for 20 mph and Mr. Warrington will look for the administrative aspects of that issue."


The minutes of that meeting also stated "We will have to look at some 20 mph streets and see whether they should be lowered to 15 mph and why?"

From a previous meeting in May discussing speed camera revenue council member Schachter
"CM Schachter will have questions about how creatively and expansive the Town could be in interpreting the law regarding the expenditure of these funds. Noted that it doesn’t bother him one bit to make money to be used for additional public good. Can we lower speed limits around the schools? "


From the July 9th meeting minutes:
"CM Tevault 12 miles per hour seems like quite a fast clip in going over 25 miles per hour. Can we consider the starting speed when adding 12 miles per hour over?

Mr. Warrington noted that the speed limits are up to the Mayor and Council. Also, that some of the revenue requirements are still somewhat unclear."

==================================================
Update 5/2/2010: Cheverly did proceed to lower most speed limits in the town from 25mph to 20mph on March 11, 2010 with ordinance O-2-10 which contains the description 'An Ordinance whereby the Mayor and Council change the maximum speed for residential streets, unless otherwise posted, from 25 miles per hour to 20 miles per hour.' This effectively turned anyone driving 21mph on a road they were previously able to legally and safely drive that speed into a 'lawbreaker'. READ Ordinance

New Carrollton Speed Cams Milk Drivers by the Thousands

New Carrollton's fledgling speed camera program is now in full swing and we have been getting many reports of tickets issued from there. The Gazette reported that in its first month New Carrollton issued 7,653 citations issued for a camera posted at the intersection of Good Luck Road and Cathedral Avenue, and 6,608 at the intersection of Riverdale Road and Lamont Drive[1]. That total (14,261 citations) is more than the number of residents in New Carrollton. Assuming all citations were paid this works out to about $342,000 of net revenue for the City and about $228,000 of income for the contractor, Optotraffic.

Strangely enough the number of Citations issued in November is vastly more than the mere 150 warnings which the city previously stated they had given out during the legally required 30 day warning period in October[2]. This indicates that New Carrollton may not have made a serious effort to issue warnings to drivers during the warning period.

New Carrollton has been using mobile units, apparently trailer based, which can function both as speed and red light cameras (See Company's description).

We have received multiple reports from ticket recipients who were given less than a week to either pay or challenge a citation from New Carrollton after the date it was received, in one case they even reportedly were unable to pay because the payment website was down. It is unclear whether New Carrollton will follow the policy of tacking on late charges immediately after the due date.

We have also received multiple reports from drivers who received citations more than 2 weeks after the date of the alleged violation. The Maryland law governing speed cameras specifies that citations issued to Maryland residents must be mailed within 2 weeks, or 30 days for out of state drivers. We strongly recommend you NOT pay any citations mailed outside of this due date. It is unreasonable to expect a defendant to be able to gather evidence in their defense weeks after an alleged violation has ocurred, especially signs may have been added or changed in that location in the interim. You should insist that these citations be dismissed without your having to go to court. Remember that the burden of proof is on the government: If you receive a citation 18 days later the fact that they deliberately did not include a postmark does not excuse the city's failure to comply with state law!

New Carrolton's program is particularly disturbing given their history of violating state and federal guidelines with their red light camera program resulting in large numbers of citations being mailed to drivers who came to a complete stop at intersections.

If you want to protest this situation, you should always direct criticisms and complaints to the state lawmakers who voted for the cameras, or to the local elected officials in New Carrollton:

Mayor Andrew C. Hanko
Phone: 301-577-0256 ; Fax: 301-459-8172 ;
E-mail: ahanko@new-carrollton.md.us

Councilmember Duane H. Rosenberg
Phone: 301-441-3324; Fax: 301-459-8172 ;
Email: drosenberg@new-carrollton.md.us

Councilmember James A. Wildoner
Phone: 301-577-0992 ; Fax: 301-459-8172 ; Email: jwildoner@new-carrollton.md.us

Councilmember June D. Garrett
Phone: 301-459-6100 ; Fax: 301-459-8172 ; Email: jgarrett@new-carrollton.md.us

Councilmember Katrina R. Dodro
Phone: 301-513-9239 ; Fax: 301-459-8172 ; E-mail: kdodro@new-carrollton.md.us

Councilmember Richard Bechtold
Phone: 240-770-7581 ; Fax: 301-459-8172 ; Email: rbechtold@new-carrollton.md.us

Mailing Address for Mayor and Council Members:
6016 Princess Garden Parkway
New Carrollton, MD 20784

If you are challenging a citation you should contact Police in New Carrollton (or the appropriate jurisdiction) to request information pertaining to the defense of your case, but speed cameras are a political issue and police do not set public policy so you should not send them letters regarding public policy. You should never consider it acceptable for an elected official to have a police officer respond on their behalf (as the County Executive in Montgomery County frequently did for that county's program[ref]).

If you wish to contact the contractor, Optotraffic, they are a division of Sigma Space Corporation is headquartered at 4801 Forbes Boulevard, Lanham, Maryland, 20706; ph# 301-552-6300.

Other towns in Prince George's County are about to follow suit: Bowie, Berwyn Heights, Capitol Heights, Riverdale Park, District Heights, Cheverly, and Brentwood are among the towns which are in the process of adding cameras. Most of the planned locations are in school zones which were recently created specifically for the purpose of adding cameras, in some cases on major state highways which only barely come within 1/2 mile of the grounds of a school. And the county government has asked the County Revenue Authority to select approximately 50 camera locations. That is just for starters. Within a few years Prince George's County may have more ticket cameras per capita than any other part of the country.

It is now up to the people of Prince George's County whether they will allow themselves to be surrounded by so many cameras that even diligent drivers end up paying a monthly bill to every small town which sets their own standards without oversight, or whether The People are going to be patriots and fight back. Every time someone 'just pays the fine', they are saying 'I won't speak up, please add more cameras and send me more tickets'. Every time someone fails to challenge a citation, they say 'I'm willing to surrender my constitutional rights to face my accuser and to be presumed innocent'.

What are YOU going to do?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Red Light Camera Vendors Fight Over Baltimore Contract

As Baltimore rapidly rolls out its new speed camera program, two photo enforcement vendors, two red light camera vendors are fighting it out in court over ownership of the city's red light cameras.

According to Baltimore, Maryland officials, a photo enforcement vendor has threatened to unplug the city's red light camera program unless its financial demands are met. The charges were leveled in a federal lawsuit initially filed by Dallas-based Affiliated Computer Services (ACS) against Arizona-based American Traffic Solutions (ATS). Baltimore inserted itself into the lawsuit last month claiming it had more of a stake in the matter.
"The contract between ACS and the city for the operation of the red light camera system generates significant revenues for the city of Baltimore," Baltimore's Chief Solicitor Michael S. Elder explained in court documents. "These revenues are utilized to fund other important governmental functions. Any interruption in the operation of the system will deprive the city of revenues that are desperately needed for essential functions in the current economic climate... The city's interest in its ability to fund vital government functions through its share of the revenue stream derived from the red light traffic camera system program is an interest that is plainly not shared by ACS."

ATS claims that it owns the City's red light cameras, which had been previously installed by Nestor Traffic Solutions (under a subcontract with ACS). Nestor's assets were purchased by ATS. ACS and the city of Baltimore claim that ATS was bound by Nestor's obligation to transfer ownership of the cameras to the City. According to court documents, "threatened to disable and/or remove red light camera devices in the City of Baltimore." ATS has yet to formally answer charges made in the lawsuit.

A similar but reversed dispute over equipment happened in DC when ATS took over control of that city's red light cameras from ACS in 2007. It was found that ACS had left large amounts of city owned equipment in disrepair.

See Story on TheNewspaper.com