Friday, December 31, 2010

Resolve to Fight Scameras in the New Year!

In 2010 we discovered an increasing number of abuses of speed cameras in the state of Maryland, as well as proof that innocent people have been receiving scamera tickets.  Among these have included:
1) The creation of vast numbers of new school zones solely for the purpose of adding 'school zone' speed cameras, many not adjacent to any school.

2) A Baltimore City speed camera issuing hundreds of tickets in error after being set to the wrong speed limit.

3) The systematically failure to perform daily calibration tests, required by law, by both Gaithersburg and Montgomery County

4) It was discovered that Gaithersburg had placed one camera at a location where the SHA concluded the speed limit was set 10mph to low according to accepted traffic engineering standards.  When confronted with this and the SHA's request to lower the speed limit, the city responded by demanding that the reduced speed zone instead be enlarged.

5) Some local governments wrote huge amounts of revenue into their FY11 budgets from speed cameras.  Cheverly in particular wrote $2.8million in 'fines and forfeitures' or 36% of the entire budget, after lowering the default speed limit in the town by 5mph. Forest Heights also wrote $2.8million in speed camera fines into their FY11 budget, an amount larger than their entire FY10 budget.

6) The speed limits at camera sites on US Route 1 in Brentwood and Mount Rainier were discovered to have been lowered by 10mph shortly before the town added the cameras.  The cameras are enforcing a 25mph speed limit in a location which had been posted at 35mph for years prior.  A similar situation later appeared in College Park, where the city DPW altered speed limit signs on Metzerott Road to enable a speed camera to enforce a 30mph speed limit in a location which was previously marked as 40mph.  The change was made the same month the camera started issuing tickets.

7) Questions were raised about the accuracy of cameras in Brentwood and Forest Heights. The 'investigation' (if any) was conducted only by the contractor, who has a financial stake in finding no problem.

8)  Forest Heights failed to provide court hearings in a timely manner to ticket recipients who requested them.  The defendants were not sent court dates for a period of well over 3 months, during which time the drivers were sent notices that their registrations would be suspended if they did not pay, seemingly trying to coerce them into paying rather than exercising their right to contest the tickets and risk additional penalties for driving with a suspended registration.

9) One driver confirmed receiving a ticket from Brentwood when he had never even been to the town. The ticket was for another model of car, showing that meaningful human review of tickets often does not take place.

10) Montgomery County tries to assert that drivers do NOT have the right to confront the speed camera operator in court, obliterating what little right to face your accuser you had left.

And this is only what could be described as the 'low hanging fruit'... the facts that could be easily uncovered in open sources and public documents.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Baltimore County Councilmember Calls for Speed Camera Expansion

Baltimore County Councilmember Tom Quirk is calling for an increase in the number of speed cameras in that county.  Baltimore County initially implemented a modest pilot program with 15 camera sites in existing school zones, a number which was built into the county's original authorization for speed cameras.  The new proposed legislation would remove the restriction and allow an unlimited number of cameras.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Montgomery County Safe Speed Says Operators Need Not Appear in Court

Montgomery County has asserted that it is not required to present speed camera operators in court even if the defendants request them to appear in writing.

One individual challenging a speed camera reported to us that he asked the Safe Speed Program's representative over the phone how to request the operator appear, and was told that for fixed pole cameras the operator who signed the camera logs and performed the 'daily self test' would not actually be present, that the operator's supervisor would appear instead. 

StopBigBrotherMD.org sent an email to the the safe speed program on December 16th requesting confirmation of this fact, and we did not receive a response by Dec 28th.  We then called the safe speed program's phone number and asked whether if a defendant requested the operator appear whether it would be the actual operator who signed the camera logs for the day of the violation.  The representative Stated that for mobile units the actual technician would be present if requested, however for fixed pole cameras it would be the operator's supervisor who appeared instead and that he would present the camera logs.  We then asked  if a defendant wanted to ask a question such as 'were you working on this day' for a ticket issued on a weekend (as we had previously reported that many speed camera logs had not been filled in on for several days in a row, particularly weekends and holidays) she at first seemed to sidestep the question by stating that school zone cameras do not issue tickets on weekends.  When we pointed out to her that Montgomery county has many cameras that are not in school zones (and in fact the large majority of Montgomery County's speed cameras are not located in school zones) she stated that she believed the logs were filled out before and after the weekend if the operator was not working.

While the county's position appears to be that presenting the operator is not required, judges have not always agreed with this.  One defendant at a Montgomery County District Court 'Speed Camera Day' in November 2010 stated that his citation was dismissed when the operator who signed the camera's logs was not present, and he was able to prove that he sent the request for the operator by certified mail.  The county's representative reportedly argued on that day that on other occasions just having the logs was enough.

In addition, the Montgomery County Office Of Legislative Oversight's report on the safe speed program (Sept 29, 2009) did include "Violator requested the Technician to be present at the hearing and Technician was not available;" as one of the few reasons why speed camera citations had been dismissed by the District Court (see pg 38).  Thus there were at least some cases prior to Sept 2009 when a judge decided against the county on this basis. It is probable the county does in fact have a District Court precedent supporting their side (they have yet to respond to our request for a copy of any such decision), but such a court decision was probably based on a defendant appearing without an attorney (as is the case with almost every defendant on speed camera day) who would not have been prepared to counter any legal argument the County's teams of paid attorneys would have constructed.  As such we don't believe defendants (or courts) should take Montgomery County at their word if they try to claim that this is decided law.

We note however the current wording of state law for speed monitoring systems (sec 21-809) reads as follows :
"(2) If a person who received a citation under subsection (d) of this section desires THE speed monitoring system operator to be present and testify at trial, the person shall notify the court and the State in writing no later than 20 days before trial."
We note that the wording is "the" speed monitoring system operator, not "a" speed monitoring system operator, and that another portion of the state law specifies that it is the camera operator's duty to perform the self tests on the machine and fill out and sign a daily setup logs.  As such specific duties of the operator are spelled out.  One could read this and conclude that the intent was to require the county to present someone in court who was capable of testifying about how the device was ACTUALLY operated in this particular instance, not how it is supposed to be operated in theory.  Otherwise the county could simply deliberately not choose to present a person in court who might need to admit to an error or problem with the system.  Thus, regardless of the county's position, a court could possibly still interpret this as meaning the specific operator who signed the logs must still attend upon request.  We suggest that if it was the intention of the Maryland General Assembly to explicitly strip citizens of their right to face the camera operator in court, then they should consider rewording this in the 2011 session (which will start in January), among the other changes they will no doubt be considering to further reduce the legal rights of Maryland drivers.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Baltimore Speed Cameras Made $15million in First Year

ABCNews 2 reports that Baltimore's speed cameras issued a total of 379,237 citations in their first twelve months, worth a total of $15.2million. 

Baltimore had originally written $7.1million in net revenue into their FY10 budget, an amount proposed before the any camera sites were selected and only a few days after the speed camera law was approved by the state legislature.  The 12 month period these citations were issued in would covers part of FY11 as well, the $7.1million figure was a 9-month estimate based on paying their contractor a share of this revenue.  The $15 million, assuming all citations were paid, would be divided between the city and their contractor(ACS).

Baltimore designated a vast number of new 'school zones' to permit these cameras, a fact admitted to by the Baltimore Department of Transportation last year.  Areas eligible for "school zone" cameras now cover over 80% of the city, including locations which are not adjacent to any school and even locations where schools have been shut down.

It is unclear whether this 379,237 ticket total includes the over 900 citations which one Baltimore camera issued in error earlier this year when it was configured to the wrong speed limit.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Speed Limit Changed at College Park Camera Site

Speed limit signs were recently changed at the site of one very profitable new speed camera in College Park.

The camera, located near the 3200 block of Metzerott Road, was added on November 16th, 2010.
Camera Viewed From East, 3200 Block Metzerott Rd
Photos obtained by StopBigBrotherMD .org of that camera site show that the speed limit on eastbound Metzerott Road is 40mph until less than 1/10th of a mile before the camera, where a sign for “Speed Limit 30” is located.
New 30mph Sign, Metzerott Rd Eastbound


 However Google Street View images of that same area show no 30mph sign present in that location.  Instead a ‘reduced speed ahead’ sign (with no speed limit shown) was located just before the 3200 block, where the 30mph sign is now.  
Legacy Image of Metzerott Eastbound, west of current camera site
See several old images near the (present day) camera location here:
(click to enlarge)
The "Reduced Speed Ahead" sign has apparently been replaced by the "Speed Limit 30" sign, effectively shifting the start of the posted 30mph speed limit zone to this point.  In the Google Street View images, the first 30mph sign was located approximately 1/3rd of a mile farther to the east near 35th street, well past the current location of the camera.    As such, the Metzerott Road speed camera is apparently enforcing a 30mph speed limit at a point where a 40mph speed limit would have been in effect not long ago.

These diagrams illustrate the changes to the posted speed limits indicated by the images we have obtained:

Before: red = 30mph, blue = 40mph
After, camera location indicated by icon near 30&40mph signs at speed transition
A resident in the area reported to us that he first saw the new 30mph sign in mid November, close to the date this camera started issuing tickets.  Other evidence we have received (which we are withholding for now at the request of our source) supports the fact that this 30mph sign was added in November 2010.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Full Body Scans... For Your Car? Coming Soon to a Street Near You!

Most of you heard the recent media stir over the TSA's new security measures, which include full-body x-rays which create naked images of people's bodies.  If you liked that, you will love what is quietly finding its way onto America's roads: x-Ray scanners which can look inside your car.  The new 'Z-Backscatter Vans', as their manufacturer calls them, are capable of looking through vehicle walls and outlining the cargo and passengers.  The technology is also capable of peering through people's clothing and through the walls of some buildings.

This technology is fairly mature already, having been used in Afghanistan and Iraq to search for bombs for several years now.  In fact, your car may have already been scanned by one of these devices without your ever being made aware of it.  The manufacturer claims to have sold "more than 500 backscatter x-ray scanners mounted in vans that can be driven past neighboring vehicles to see their contents."  The scanners are already in use by the Homeland Security Department, U.S Customs and Border Protection, and the State Department, and could be used by local law enforcement for any purpose as well.  The new technology is largely unregulated, and there are few if any restrictions on how or where it is used, and no requirement that people be informed that they are being exposed to x-rays from the scans.

Not only can vehicles be imaged, but the same type of technology used in airport scanners is being modified to permit scanning of human bodies on the streets.  A dutch paper reported that the technology has the potential to conduct "mass scans on crowds at events such as football matches”, and that it is now mature and “The biggest challenge is making it portable and ensuring it can carry out a scan in seconds.”

We wonder if they will also start giving cars 'enhanced patdowns' and telling us we 'consented' to being scanned and searched when we got our drivers licenses?  But don't worry, you should at least be able to 'opt out' by lining your basement with lead and never leaving it.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Redspeed Camera Van Spontaneously Combusts

SBYNews is reporting that a speed camera van in the town of Fruitland spontaneously caught on fire on Saturday.  The incident is believed to be because of an electrical failure, not vandalism.  The speed camera van, owned by Redspeed, is apparently designed to automatically restart its engines when the batteries for the speed camera equipment begin to run low.

Fruitland awarded a 3 year contract for these cameras to a partnership between Brekford Corp and Redspeed according to a Brekford press release, however the partnership between the two companies was terminated earlier this year.  Now Redspeed provides the cameras and related services in exchange for a portion of the ticket revenues.  Fruitland's 'school zone' speed cameras were previously reported to be located outside the posted school zone, a fact confirmed to us by a resident in the area.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Maryland SafeZones Camera Van Caught Speeding

WBFF News Baltimore has reported on a Maryland 'Safe Zones' speed camera van caught traveling 80mph on I-70.  A motorist tailed the van and recorded a video clearly showing the van's 'safezones' insignia, and showed his speedometer reaching 80mph as he matched the van's speed.  Over the last year the Safe Zones vans have issued over 150,000 speeding citations at 5 work zones on interstate highways  I-695, I-95, and US 15.

In Montgomery County it had been previously reported that some police officers who received speed camera tickets had refused to pay the citations under the advice of their police union.

One might ask whether the state is really doing everything it can to gain voluntary compliance with speed limits, when its own law enforcement vehicles are setting the example of speeding?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Montgomery County's Top 5 Money Makers Revealed

ABC News 7 has revealed the 5 camera sites in Montgomery County grossing more revenue than any others in the county's program.  77,668 citations were reportedly issued by these 5 cameras, bringing in a total of $3.1million in revenue for a 12 month period ending in August.  The county's contractor, ACS State and Local Solution, received a $16.25 cut out of each citation, or $1,262,105 from these 5 cameras sites alone.

The top grossing camera, at 17700 Georgia Ave Northbound, is in a particularly ideal location.   The camera is place 0.1mile located a just few yards outside a posted school zone.  Montgomery County is uniquely permitted to have speed cameras outside school zones, and due to a loophole in the law the cameras posted outside school zones are permitted to operate on weekends whereas school zones cameras are not.  Yet the presence of the school zone close by still permits the county to claim the school as justification for having a camera enforcing the lower speed limit in this location even though they are not subject to the restrictions which come with that.  We previously documented the fact that according to the county's own report, as of June 2009 80% of camera sites located in Montgomery County were not located in designated school zones.

A similar situation applies to the camera at 13600 Darnestown Road, where a 40mph speed limit is dropped to 30mph and the camera placed 0.1mile down the road, and no posted school zone, a fact which we reported on shortly after that camera was installed.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Cameras Voted Down in Five US Cities

TheNewspaper.com is reporting that five more US cities have rejected photo enforcement in municipal referendums.  Ballot measures on red light cameras were held in Houston and Baytown in Texas, and voters rejected the cameras in both cases despite massive spending to influence the vote by a camera company.  In Mukiteo, Washington a referendum was held on speed and red light cameras with 70% of voters choosing to place new restrictions limiting the use of cameras.  A camera company attempted unsuccessfully to block the Mukiteo referendum in court.  In Anaheim, California voters passed a charter amendment banning red light cameras.And in Garfield Height, Ohio voters passed a measure banning speed cameras, despite the camera contractor funding a PR effort supporting the cameras.

Photo enforcement has been placed to a direct popular vote in a total of 16 municipalities in the US and has been rejected by voters every one of those times.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Speed Camera Tickets Can Hold Up Home Purchase

Some would have you believe that if you pay a speed camera ticket you are only out $40.  But in some cases they can have other impacts.  Here's a story in the College Park Path about a couple whose mortgage application for a new home was held up for a Montgomery County speed camera ticket... one which they had already paid. 

"We stayed at our lender's office filling out forms so late one night that the air conditioning turned off – in August. But we still received a phone call shortly thereafter notifying us that there was one small blemish on one of our credit reports that we would need to clear up before we signed our mortgage.

At first, I had trouble tracking down the overdue bill, because I mistook the name of the company for my student loan provider. Several phone calls later I found out that it was for a traffic camera ticket.


I had a guilty moment when I thought back to a day about a year before, when I was sure I had gotten a speed camera ticket, but thought I had successfully stuck my head in the sand because I had failed to change my mailing address and never received a ticket. 

I thought it would be an easy problem to fix, but the day before we were to go to settlement we were still trying to figure out how to resolve the ticket. We feared that after all the hurdles we had cleared, it would end up being a speeding ticket that would stand in the way of us getting our house. 

Finally, I found out it was actually a ticket my boyfriend had received in Montgomery County, and discovered it was a ticket he had already paid.
"

Fortunately they were eventually able to locate the receipt for the citation and convince their lender that they had paid.  "But you can imagine my chagrin the next morning, after our first night in the house, when I picked up the paper and read that speeding cameras would soon be coming to College Park too. "

College Park started using speed cameras on October 15th.  So UMD students beware, years from now that fully paid $40 ticket might come back to haunt you.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

November Elections will Determine Future of Cameras in Maryland

For the past two years StopBigBrotherMD.org has been documenting the expansion of speed cameras in Maryland.  Last year a bill sponsored championed by Governor O'Malley authorized the use of speed cameras in school zones and freeway work zones anywhere in the state.  We argued that this new power would be abused, that it would diminish the legal rights of drivers, subject drivers to mass surveillance, and that it would be viewed as a cash cow by local governments and a way of taxing out of town drivers.  We argued that while in fact these machines are fallible, that cameras would still always be presumed correct and the driver always presumed guilty.  Now, a year after that new law went into effect, the truth has been exposed:


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Another Town Quietly Goes to the Dark Side

Just when we thought there was already no place left in Prince George's County which hadn't approved speed cameras yet... the town of Landover Hills has just awarded a contract for speed cameras to Brekford Corp

The town with a population of about 1500 borders route 450 and will almost certainly seek to deploy speed cameras on that road.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Riverdale Park Speed Cameras Producing Errors

An October 1 story on the Riverdale Park Patch website, interviewing the police chief Teresa Chambers about the town's speed camera program, contained the following statement:

"Chambers said residents have occasionally received citations that were incorrectly issued to them. If this happens to you, please send an email to pdinfo@riverdaleparkmd.gov about the error."

We'll just take the police chief's word for it that Riverdale Park has been issuing speed camera citations in error.  If the police chief's response to your complain is not satisfactory, you can always contact us.

UPDATE: Read about charges of FORGERY AND FRAUD by Riverdale Park's Speed Camera Program.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Morningside Council Member Accused of Fixing Camera Tickets

According to a TBD news report, a council woman in the town of Morningside, (Prince George's County Maryland), is being accused of deleting red light camera tickets issued to herself and her husband who also sits on the council.  Councilwoman Foster had also worked as a police clerk in the town's photo enforcement unit but was suspended from that position pending and investigation by state police.  The town's red light camera program generates about $150,000 per year, according to the story. See the complete report here.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Annapolis, Salisbury Considering Speed Camera Programs

More Maryland cities are considering starting speed camera programs.  Salisbury is looking to deploy cameras "within a 1/2 mile radius of schools" according to an article in Delmarva Now. This area would encompass most of Salisbury including portions the major roads such as US 15 and US 50.  The nearby town of Fruitland is already using cameras provided by Redspeed Inc, which was documented maximizing their profits simply by placing a camera outside the posted school zone.

Annapolis hopes to collect up to $4.5 million by placing speed cameras on Forest Drive, according to a story in Hometown Annapolis.  Redspeed is selling the plan to the state in hopes of collecting a 37.5% cut of each ticket and conducted a traffic survey free of charge to determine the most profitable locations.  The proposal will be discussed at a Monday October 25th council session (see council meetings schedule).

Illinoise based Redspeed USA started its fortunes by helping to create that state's red light camera law. They have recently been pedaling there wares in Thurmont and Princess Anne as well.

Both Annapolis and Salisbury must first pass local legislation and approve a contract to deploy cameras, as well as get SHA permission to use the cameras on state highways.
Contacts:
Salisbury City Council
Annapolis City Council

Monday, October 18, 2010

DC Red Light Camera Goes Haywire

A DC neighborhood blog reported on an "overly sensitive red light camera" in DC at the intersection of 1rst street and Rhode Island Avenue.  "I have received a complaint that the red-light camera at 1st & Rhode Island NW has gone off even when people are just making the legal right turn on red as they are traveling west on Rhode Island Avenue NW. " wrote Commissioner John Salatti.

Several citizens responded to Salatti in the comments:
"I recieved a ticket in the mail last month for making a right from Rhode Island onto First St. I wrote to DMV in my defense denying the violation and included photos of the corner which does not display a "No Turn on Red" sign. It's only been approx. 2 weeks but I have yet to hear back from Adjudication. In speaking to other neighbors I know of one more person who received a ticket." complained one resident.

"i got a $150 ticket for turning right onto 1st!"  said another comment.

"I think it automatically goes off every time the light turns red. Incredibly annoying. It feels like there is a lightning storm 24 hours a day from the flash for the houses along RI ave between 2nd and 1st." said another.

"We're on the 100 block of RI Ave NW (next to Arli actually) and that thing flashes constantly for no reason whatsoever. We're used to it, but it's still pretty annoying and clearly NOT working properly. It would only take a DDOT employee, or whoever is responsible for it, an hour or two of observing it to see how horribly awry this camera is!"

"It's just another going green project for DC gov. The green from our pockets."
Salatti said he would ask DDOT and the DMV to investigate.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

More Concerns Surface About Brentwood’s Cameras

On August 13, 2010 Melvin Catterton, a retired Anne Arundel police officer living in Annapolis, was surprised to find a letter marked “Police Department Notice” from the Brentwood Police in his mailbox.  He was even more surprised to open the envelope and see that this was a speed camera citation.  Why?  Because he had never been in Brentwood.

According to Catterton, his car is a Mercury Marquis SED plate number FOP-1023.  The vehicle in the image was a 2000 C Class Mercedes with a blurred tag number.  Catterton took the image to an optometrist who used her magnifying equipment and read the tag number “1823”. 

The citation (#8w101654820) was signed by Brentwood Police chief David Risik.  Catterton called Risik and confronted him about the matter.  Among other things, he questioned why a citation was issued if the tag # was blurred , and whether Risik merely “rubber stamped” every citation without comparing the citation vehicle with the M.V.A vehicle description. 

Catterton wrote a letter the Brentwood's mayor and council dated August 24th expressing his frustration with the situation.  He was so angered with Risik’s attitude during the conversation that he went to a Brentwood town meeting the second Tuesday in September and confronted Mayor Montgomery-Wright about the matter.

This is not the first concern which has been raised about Brentwood’s speed cameras.   We have already documented that the speed limit on the portion of US Route 1 (Rhode Island Avenue) was lowered in April from 35mph to 25mph in the immediate vicinity of the speed cameras which were installed shortly thereafter (one camera is used by Brentwood, another by Mount Rainier).  The Washington Examiner reported that the town’s contractor, Optotraffic, is investigating whether their cameras have inaccurately recorded the speeds of some large vehicles including buses.

Brentwood was forced to institute a ‘speed camera amnesty program’ for citations issued between June 24 and July 13, 2010.  Police Chief Risk apparently approved over 3500 citations during that period.  However Risik’s contract with the town expired on June 24 and the council refused to renew it, and as such he was not legally a police officer at the time and not authorized to approve citations.  After a new council member started her term in July a new contract was signed on July 19th (which we note is 6 days after the end of the amnesty period).  Two council members, who opposed reinstating Risik, did not sign the new contract.   The amnesty was at first offered to Brentwood residents and advertised only on a local blog, but the Gazette later reported in August that this had been extended to all ticket recipients.  People who have gotten such citations have reported not receiving such a refund so far.  A copy of this letter obtained by StopBigBrotherMD was dated August 23rd, meaning refunds should be paid before the end of November.  In a Brentwood town council session, it was discussed that Brentwood would pay Optotraffic over $50,000 to pay for the refunds, to cover both the town’s portion and the contractor’s portion of each citation.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Baltimore Closes School, Keeps School Zone Camera

The Baltimore Sun has reported on that the city has kept in place the "School Zone" signs, and the speed camera, for Cardinal Gibbons High School school which closed in June.

"Now, the parking lot off Desoto Road is filled with the vehicles of employees of St. Agnes Hospital, not school faculty. But yellow "school zone" signs at the intersection of Wilkens Avenue and Desoto still remind drivers to slow down, and a red light and speed enforcement camera monitor their behavior.

William Debord, who lives in the Morrell Park neighborhood, drives his grandson past the former Gibbons campus through that intersection to Mount St. Joseph High School, and he often sees the speed camera flash when drivers turn right on red. A sign bars right turns onto Desoto between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. — traditional school hours.

"I think it's ridiculous to have it that way now," Debord said. "There's no school there."

He's never gotten a ticket there himself, but thinks the camera should go.
"

Spokeswoman Adrienne Barnes for Baltimore's Department of Transportation said that the speed camera still falls within a half-mile radius around other schools.  The city claimed that there were two other schools within a 1/2 mile radius of this location, however when the Sun looked up the named locations on a map they concluded that those facilities were farther than 1/2 mile away.  City officials of course disagreed with that conclusions so the camera remains, 4 months after the grounds of the school it was placed for became a parking lot.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Freeway Work Zone Cameras Increasing

The State Highway Administration is in the process of expanding its fleet of freeway work zone speed cameras and there has seen a steep rise in the number of citations issued.  So far the state has issued 118,500 citations from four locations.  One single camera, located on I-695 at Charles street has so far issued 58,080 citations, primarily because the speed limit at that location has been lowered to 50mph.

A new freeway camera, located on Route 15 at Hayward Road, is going up this week.  The speed limit at that site has been lowered by 10mph in the southbound direction so that cameras can issue citations at just 2mph over the previous 55mph speed limit "Regardless of whether workers are present" under the terms of state law.  In a videotaped town council session one Frederick City council woman quipped that this camera would "probably pay for the whole project".

The SHA reported to the Towson Times that data on reductions in accidents, if any, was "not available" at this time.  They nevertheless claimed that cameras are a success because "Statistics gathered from other automated speed enforcement locations are proving that drivers are slowing down as much as 5 to 7 mph through some of our work zones".

However this reported slowdown could be entirely attributable to the use of speed trailers ("Your Speed" signs) which are currently deployed at these work zones.  There have been many studies showing that such display signs are highly effective at reducing average speeds in locations such as work zones and school zones, including one by the Texas Transportation Institute showing average speed reductions of over 5mph from cameras.  In fact the Maryland SHA was well aware of this fact when they made their claim, because in 2005 the Maryland SHA conducted their own study which showed speed trailers (without speed cameras) reduced average speeds in work zones by up to 7mph.  However the SHA made no mention of this fact when they quoted their statistics on speed cameras to the press.
 
There is no legal requirement that speed trailers be used at speed cameras sites, and they are NOT a standard fixture at most work zones without speed cameras.  As such their use at speed camera sites could easily be a 'special introductory offer' which ends at any time... say sometime after November 2nd.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Forest Heights Fails to Provide Court Hearings, Threatens Drivers

Some citizens receiving speed camera citations from the town of Forest Heights have requested court hearings but were instead hit with late penalties and were threatened that their registrations would be suspended if they did not pay.

The Washington Times has reported speaking with individuals who tried to challenge their citations in court, believing the recorded speeds to be inaccurate.  While it may or may not be possible to prove weeks after the fact whether this is the case, these drivers were not given the chance.  "Though the drivers promptly followed the instructions on the citation, Forest Heights refused to set a court date. Instead, the private company sent threatening letters on the town's letterhead stating, "You failed to pay your fine by the due date specified on your original citation. As a result, you owe additional fees." reports the Times.

The letters these drivers received stated September 30 (today) as the date their registrations would be suspended.  Driving with a suspended registration is of course illegal and carries additional hefty fines (even if the registration was flagged inappropriately).  The state of Maryland has the means to identify such flagged registrations (using ALPR systems) even if the drivers are obeying other traffic laws.  So these drivers are now being put in the position of breaking the law and receiving even heavier penalties, or being unable to drive their cars and putting their jobs on the line, or simply giving up on receiving hearings by paying these fines plus late fees.  That's called "Blackmail".

StopBigBrotherMD.org has also been contacted by citizens who either requested hearings from Forest Heights and not received them.  Some drivers contacted Forest Heights officials about the matter and were told they would receive hearings, but still have not as of the suspension date on the notices they received.  Another driver claimed to have actually paid the fine by the due date but received a late notice anyways with additional late fees added on.

In a recent story regarding possible accuracy problems with speed cameras in Forest Heights, ABC News 2 interviewed one driver receiving such a questionable citation who also was unable to receive a court hearing, further confirming this situation.  The stated reason that court dates were not provided was that the District Courts are backed up.  Whether this is the case or not is really no excuse.  The US and Maryland constitutions guarantee that we, the people, will not be punished for a crime without first receiving due process.  This situation documents that in some cases the courts cannot physically handle cases as fast as automated cameras can shotgun blast out citations, and that this is likely to be a problem just when it is most important: when widespread problems may have occurred.  But whether overloaded courts is the cause, or whether it is a matter of callous disregard for our rights, the town still an obligation to ensure drivers are not penalized before they receive a FAIR hearing.

It is unknown how many drivers are currently in this situation.  The Town of Forest Heights FY11 Budget projected camera revenues of $2.8million dollars, which would require approximately 70,000 paid citations to achieve.  Put into context, Forest Height has about 3000 residents, so that would be about 23 citations sent per resident. This is 49% of the town's total $5.8million budget.  The town's FY10 budget, which did not include speed camera fines, was a mere $1.7million according to a July 2009 town newsletter.  According to state law the town is supposed to keep no more than 10% of their budget in speed camera revenues after all expenses.  However because the total used to compute that 10% includes the camera revenue itself, the $580,000 in net revenue (after in addition to $1.184million in 'expenses') is equal to 30% of their FY10 budget.  Should they reach their revenue goal the remaining $1.1million would go to the state's general fund.  The state of needed to sign off on the permit for the camera located on State Highway 210 since it is maintained by the SHA.

In the interest of protecting the due process of Maryland drivers, we call upon the city of Forest Heights to IMMEDIATELY void the citations of any driver who has requested a hearing and not received one.  And we call on the residents of Maryland not to sit back and wait for their own rights to be stripped away: Take Action Now.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Cheverly Residents Confronted Council on Camera Accuracy

We previously reported that the town of Cheverly had apparently received complaints about the accuracy of its new speed cameras and felt compelled to publish a response to those complaints.  It turns out some town residents were sufficiently unconvinced by the town's response that they contronted the town council about it in an August 12th town meeting.

One resident's comments were recorded as follows:
"regarding a number of citizens who received tickets, but did not believe that they were going that fast.  Asking to look at the results of the data of the tickets issued to see if the four of us that got tickets did not speed excessively.  We have one elderly person who said she never ever speeds in Cheverly."

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Maryland's Right to Petition for Referendum in Danger

A recent decision by the Montgomery County Board of Elections to reject two petitions, one in opposition to a new Ambulance Fee and one on Term Limits, could severely curtail the right of Maryland voters to petition for referendum on any issue ever.

The Board of Elections, in response to a court ruling on a prior referendum effort, adopted the new rules on how the signatures on the petition must be written.  The signatures must exactly match the person's written name, which must exactly match their name as it appears on the election rolls, including notably middle names or initials.  Signatures could also be tossed if some letters in the name were illegible. The problem: that's not how most people sign their names.  Anyone who's normal legal signature which they use on checks, contracts, marriage licenses, or drivers licenses would be thrown out if they sign it 'John Smith' rather than 'John T Smith', or if like many people their legal signature consists of a 'decorative scribble' rather than neat legible cursive. This is the case with a huge percentage of the population.  Because of this the majority of signatures from legitimate registered voters were thrown out on both petitions.

Under these rules, any future petition whether it is on speed cameras, or taxes, or any other issue, will likely be shot down regardless of how many signatures are collected.  Any local government which WANTS to reject a petition need only claim that large numbers of signatures are 'illegible'.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Redspeed Targets Small Towns As Speed Camera Customers

The smallest and newest player in Maryland's speed camera business is targeting small towns with its speed camera marketing strategy.  Redspeed conducted a traffic survey in the town of Rising Sun and estimated that at one camera site they could have brought in $20,000 worth of revenue had a camera been placed there.  The data was presented at a September 14 town meeting.

Under the deal offered by Redspeed the company would keep $15 of every citation and the town would keep the remaining $25.  The town would first need to pass an ordinance authorizing the cameras and another approving the contract.  Rising Sun Residents who have objections to being stripped of their due process rights should consult the Town Commissioners or attend the next public meeting.

A similar sales pitch is being made to the Frederick County town of Thurmont.  Redspeed's presentation was made at a September 7th town meeting.  Thurmont would also need to draft and pass local legislation.  Note that this can happen with very little notice, and in many small towns only an extremely small minority of residents pay any attention to the goings on in town meetings!  Those with concerns about being presumed guilty by a machine should contact the town's elected officials or attend the next town meeting.
  
We previously reported that Princess Anne is seriously considering adding Redspeed cameras as well.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Frederick City Discusses Speed Camera Money

The City of Frederick has just approved a contract with ACS State and Local Solutions to provide speed cameras.  The contract was approved in a public hearing. 

The council held an hour long discussion about the speed camera contract (which the editor of this website was able to watch in its entirely since I'm home sick this weekend, but which you can watch for yourself  HERE,Time index 02:01:00  -  03:03:00 ). 
Frederick City Council Discusses Camera Money
Short story: that discussion was almost entirely about MONEY.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Plot Thickens With Rhode Island Avenue Speed Limits

Earlier we reported that the speed limit where two cameras on US Route 1 (Rhode Island Avenue) in Brentwood and Mount Rainer have been added appears to have recently been lowered from 35mph to 25mph.  We filed a Maryland Public Information Act Request with the Maryland State Highway Administration to try to get some answers.  After just over a month we finally received some of the information we were looking for, answering some questions and raising several new ones.

In their first response the SHA provided a list of written answers along with Mount Rainier's permit for speed camera use.  When we informed them that some of the data we requested was not complete they then produced a copy of Brentwood's speed camera permit application.

In their first response the SHA stated that the speed limit sign "During the SHA's review of this area for school zone signing it was found that a 35mph speed limit sign was located on northbound US 1 near 37th street.  This sign was incorrectly placed and was replaced with a 25mph sign in April, 2010, when the school zone signing was installed."  We responded by asking about the sign change in the southbound direction, and also pointed out that our request had include the both directions as well as work orders to change the signs. 

Felicia Murphy from the SHA responded that "The speed limit in Mt. Rainier on US 1 has been 25 mph for many years." and repeated that "we noticed the 35 mph speed limit sign which was incorrect and had it corrected."  They were unable to produce the actual work orders for changing the signs.  However we noted that page two of the Brentwood permit request states: "The posted speed limit of this section of US 1 has recently been reduced to 25mph, extending an existing 25MPH zone that is present to the south.".  We pointed this out to the SHA in another email along with the photos below showing the location in the southbound lane where there is now a 25mph sign which was clearly not there "for many years" since Google Street View has only been in existence for a few years.
Before
After
North of this sign the speed limit is currently, and was previously, posted at 35mph, and the speed camera is now located a mere 50 yards south of this point.  We also asked for the name of the engineer who "discovered" the speed limit was wrong, or whether someone pointed this "error" out to them, and for the document that was the basis for saying a 35mph speed limit was "incorrect".   After three business days we received no additional response from the SHA.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Cheverly, Forest Heights Speed Cameras Questioned

Residents of the town of Cheverly and Forest Heights have questioned the accuracy of the towns' new speed cameras.

In Cheverly, someone apparently made enough noise about it that the town felt the need to publish a response on August 6th.  The town officials "investigated" the issue and surprisingly discovered that there was no problem whatsoever.  However they did state that they would provide a "provide a completely independent verification of the Optotraffic unit’s calibration" which consisted of the town doing its own comparison using a hand held radar unit.

Of course this is not an "independent verification" because the town collects the revenue from these cameras.  Potentially a great deal of revenue.  Cheverly wrote over $2.5million of new speed camera "fines and forfeitures" into their 2011 budget projections, increasing the town's total budget from $4.4million in FY2010 to over $7million in FY2011.  Town officials have begun openly touting the cameras as a source of revenue from out of town drivers.  The town council recently lowered the speed limit on most local roads by 5mph and is seeking permission from the SHA to add cameras on state highway 202.  In the minutes of a May 2009 council meeting one council member was recorded expressing his view of the cameras: "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? "

Now do you really think they would tell you if they found the cameras were in error?

The cameras used in Cheverly are the same type as those used in Brentwood and other towns in the area which have recently clocked buses traveling at speeds which are virtually impossible.

Similar complaints have been made in the town of Forest Heights, according to a story in the TBD Network and ABC News 7.  Forest Heights also uses the same model of speed camera as Cheverly along Indian Highway.  One business owner received a citation for a 40 foot long 40,000lb RV with a car in tow for traveling 53mph just after turning onto the uphill road.  "It's no way I can even get up to 25 miles an hour in that short period of time in this," ABC news 7 quoted Earl Lomax, a former police officer.  Lomax stated that he requested a court date to challenge his citation but that the courts are now so backed up that he could not receive a court date.

Forest Heights greatly expanded the school zone previously located in the town in order to allow them to place the cameras closer to the point where a 40mph limit dropped to 35. 

By now some Cheverly and Forest Heights residents are starting to realize that they have been duped by town officials who want the cameras to steal from passing drivers... and perhaps town residents as well.  To the citizens who raised these concerns we will now ask "Have you had enough yet?".  If the town council won't listen, write to us and we will.

Optotraffic Investigates Possible Camera Glitch

The contractor for most of the municipal speed camera programs in Prince George's County, Optotraffic/Sigma Space, is investigating a potential glitch which may have overestimated the speed of large vehicles. 

According to the Washington Examiner, a dozen violations involving buses and trucks where the vehicles were recorded traveling 25mph over the limit are considered suspect.  In one case the company Veolia Transportation received a citation from the town of Brentwood on August 20th with a July 28th violation date.  By the time the driver was notified the deadline for requesting a court hearing had already passed.  The driver of the bus was suspended without pay, enrolled in a three day "refresher" training course, and threatened with termination if she received another violation.

Rick Hilmer of Prince George's County Fleet management stated that they were receiving an average of 30 citations per day for county buses.  A spokesperson for the Prince George's county DPWT told the examiner that she doubted a bus could travel nearly 60mph on the road this driver was cited on. 

StopBigBrotherMD.org has occasionally been contacted by individuals who had been threatened with termination over speed camera citations received while driving company vehicles.  However we have been unable to publish information about those cases because the employees were afraid of reprisals.  Many nationwide companies have policies for disciplining employees for speeding tickets which do not distinguish speed camera citations which are sent out in vastly greater numbers, and with a far lower burden of proof, than human issued citations.

Brentwood earlier this year had to refund a large number of citations when it was discovered that they had been approved by a police officer who had been placed on municipal leave when his contract expired.  The town of Mount Rainier and Brentwood had apparently recently lowered the speed limit at the locations on Rhode Island Avenue by 10mph.

Optotraffic has deployed the same model of camera in Mount Rainier, Riverdale Park, New Carrollton, Cleverly, Forest Heights, and several other towns in Prince George's County.

Source: The Washington Examiner

Saturday, September 4, 2010

New Cameras Pop Up Like Mushrooms

New speed camera sites are going up in Frederick, Montgomery County, Takoma Park, and other places across the state.

The State Highway Administration approved a new work zone speed camera on Route 15 at the intersection with Hayward Road near Frederick.  The speed limit southbound lane in this location is being lowered from 55 mph to 45mph, meaning that citations will be issued at 2mph over the speed limit 'regardless of whether workers are present' according to state law.  The speed limit in the northbound lane remains unchanged.

Montgomery County has approved 25 new camera sites, 1 fixed location and 24 mobile locations.  The mobile locations will be patrolled by a combination of camera vans and portable 'box cams' which are about the size of a large trashcan.  The county held a massive press conference and media rally --- which appeared to have followed the script of the PR and media campaign outlined in the county’s speed camera contract.  The press conference included members of the county government such as Ike Leggett, the head of the County Police's speed camera program who is appointed by those elected officials, representatives of ACS State and Local Solutions (who own and maintain the cameras and receive a cut of every ticket), as well as a representative from AAA Mid Atlantic (AAA presents itself as representing drivers' interests for PR purposes, but their primary business is selling insurance and they have no vested interest in protecting drivers rights).  The county stated to the media that this expansion of the program is about school safety. 11 of the new sites were not in established school zones, and the majority sites located in Montgomery County continue to be located outside of any established school zone(see list and analysis of previous camera sites).

Earlier in August Takoma Park approved two new cameras at 1000 University Blvd and 1000 East-West Highway.  Since these camera sites are located on major state highways so approval from the SHA will need to be obtained.  Takoma Park brought in about $1.28 million in net revenue from its existing camera sites on New Hampshire Ave and Ethan Allen Avenue.

College Park is waiting on approval from the SHA and Prince George's County for new camera sites along Route 123 and Route 1 in a newly created school zone near the university.  Speed cameras are already operating farther south in Mount Rainer and Brentwood near 37th street where the speed limit has been lowered by 10mph from 35 to 25mph just around the camera sites.

The state highway administration is expected to approve College Park's requests. However Prince George's County has been more reluctant to issue permits for cameras on county roads, with a spokesperson for the county DPWT stating they were still hoping to reserve many of its roadways for eventual county-owned cameras.  Any revenue from county run cameras would go into the county rather than the city's coffers.  However earlier this year the Prince George's county government nixed its original plan to add 100 camera sites with County Executive Johnson calling the cameras 'a Tax' and favored a scaled down plan using mobile cameras.  This original plan could still easily be revived... after the elections.

The new cameras ave been added to our speed camera map.  The Takoma Park and College Park locations will added be as well after they receive approval.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Primaries Offer Some Voters a Choice on Speed Cameras

Some incumbent lawmakers who voted for statewide speed cameras face challenges not only in the November 2nd election but also in Maryland's September 14th primaries.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

New License Plate Scanners Will Monitor Maryland Drivers

Governor O'Malley has approved the purchase of 105 new Automated License Plate Recognition (ALPR) systems.  These devices are used by state police to scan the tag number of every passing vehicle and search a database of license plate numbers for those with some outstanding violation, warrant, or red flag.  The O'Malley administration has stated that the purpose of the systems is to find stolen vehicles, wanted criminals, or vehicles flagged for 'amber alerts' etc.  However the "Security Integration Strategy" document released by the state lists one of the goals of the LPR program as "Identify vehicles linked to drivers with expired licenses, expired tags, or unpaid fines."  The document also note that  "In a single day, LPRs in use by the Maryland Transportation Authority Police were responsible for the recovery of almost $50,000 in scofflaw fees for toll tag violations."

The data collected from these scanners will be stored in a central database.  Each device is capable of scanning and storing thousands of license plates per day along with the time and location it was recorded.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Mount Rainier, Brentwood Lowered Speed Limits at Camera Sites

The town of Mount Rainier recently began using a speed camera on the 3700 block of Rhode Island Avenue (US Route 1). StopBigBrotherMD has discovered that the speed limit at that camera site was recently lowered by 10mph, from 35mph to 25mph. Photos taken in the first week of August by a concerned citizen show the 25mph speed limit just north of 37th street. The speed limit north of the current camera site is 35mph, with the camera site located about 45 yards south of the 25mph sign (marked on the photo below, partially concealed by trees and other obstacles).   An image extracted from Google street view shows the same site taken before the camera deployment. Notice that the 25mph sign is not present in these legacy images.

Before
After
A 25mph zone did exist previously on Rhode Island Avenue southbound, but started south of 37th street, approximately 500 feet south of the point where it is at now. Before the new 25mph sign the speed the limit in the section around the camera was still posted as 35mph.

We also discovered that there was previously a 35mph speed limit sign just south of 37th street in the northbound lane, marking the (former) end of that 25mph zone. Now that sign was removed and has been replaced by a 25mph sign a short distance away.
Before
After
The next-door town of Brentwood has been using a camera at 38th street in the northbound lane, enforcing the 25mph speed limit in the area formerly marked as 35mph as the drivers are exiting the newly created school zone.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Montgomery County Scamera Contract Includes Massive PR Campaign

Montgomery County's Speed Camera contract with ACS State and Local Solutions includes a 15 page section describing the public relations campaign which ACS helps to coordinate (SEE DOCUMENT). The contract describes PR campaigns ACS has assisted elsewhere and approaches which it advises the county to take in selling the cameras to the public and deflating criticisms and opposition. The contract details how ACS would assist in creating public relations material, manipulate the media, influence state and local lawmakers, and even 'inform' judges on the company's version of the facts on the camera.

"ACS believes that ongoing media relations are essential to sustaining successful photo speed enforcement public information and public education programs. As such, our team recommends that the County's public information program does not stop once the initial events and fanfare are over. Over the length of the program, ACS recommends that the County carry out an extended media relations program that uses the photo speed enforcement program to promote traffic safety.

This program, as currently envisioned by our team, would include:

* Writing and placing one or more articles in the local, daily newspaper of the County's choice.
* Identifying and contacting key local print journalists and editors in order to brief them on the project and solicit their interest and support. ACS experience shows that outreach to traffic reporters and commuter journalists such as Dr. Gridlock of the Washington Post increases support and understanding of the program.
* Identifying and contacting key radio and television outlets to encourage coverage
* Identifying and contacting key radio "drive time" traffic reporters to brief them on the project.
* Organizing a media fax network for the purpose of keeping media representatives aware of the status of Montgomery County's Photo Speed Enforcement Program.
* Composing, for distribution to the media, issue papers that address pertinent public policy issues raised by photo speed enforcement, as well as answer-specific anticipated criticisms of photo speed enforcement.
* Organizing additional news conferences on the occasion of significant project milestones.
* Regularly identifying and pitching photo speed enforcement's positive message to electronic and print media that support the program's public safety goals.
"

"We have been successful in providing the necessary information to high profile newspapers such as the Washington Post where positive stories about the enforcement programs have been published. The result is an enforcement program that is highly supported by the public."

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Montgomery County Traffic Fatalities Double as Cameras Increase

(Updated 10/26/2010)
Montgomery County reported its 27th traffic fatality of 2010 on in June. Tragically this is more than double the 13 traffic deaths the county experienced in the same period of January 1,2009 through June 28, 2009. (Information from the Gazette )

In June 2009 Montgomery County touted a drop in traffic fatalities for the first few months of the year, claiming the county's speed camera program was largely responsible, and the head of the program Captain Damskey crediting the cameras with having a "long-lasting, profound effect on our roadways". The county downplayed certain facts however, including the fact that traffic fatalities had increased in the county from 2007 to 2008, and that there had been an unusually large nationwide decline in traffic fatalities occurring both from 2007 to 2008 and 2008 to 2009. In March 2010 the NHTSA released data showing that there had been a nationwide reduction in traffic fatalities of 8.9% from 2008 to 2009, following a similar drop the prior year, with an overall 22% reduction in nationwide fatalities from 2005 to 2009.

A preliminary report on traffic fatalities by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showed that national traffic fatalities dropped 9.2% in the first half of 2010.  Montgomery County's results of increasing accidents are therefore an exception to a nationwide trend for decreasing accidents during this six month period. The NHTSA did not credit the use of automated traffic enforcement for the nationwide trend, as speed cameras are still only used in a small minority of states.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Brentwood Offers Speed Camera Citation Refunds

The following was recently posted by police to a local police blog and one or more local listservs on Friday July 23rd:
"Due to an error we are offering to void speed camera citations that were issued between June 24th thru July 13th, 2010. Please email your citation number to chiefbrentwoodpd@juno.com with Citation Amnesty Program written in the subject line.

Any speed citations issued before or after the dates listed are not included in this amnesty program
.

This program does not include or involve speed camera citations that were issued by the City of Mount Rainier.
"

We advise anyone receiving one of these citations to take advantage of the city's offer to correct their error.

===================================

Update 7/29/2010: The Washington Examiner has followed up on this story. When asked Brentwood Mayor Xzavier Montgomery-Wright attributed the refund to an "internal error". "I want to end this [phone] call and not respond," she said, declining to identify the town's camera contractor. "The people calling the press and telling them about this are just trying to shut down the [camera] program."
The Examiner received conflicting responses from the town police Chief and the camera vendor, Optotraffic/Sigma Space.

8/16: The Gazette reported on August 5th that the town plans to refund all citations. 3500 citations were apparently improperly approved during the 3 week period. However we have been informed by another source that this may take a very long time since the Brentwood police are understaffed.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Charles County To Get Speed Cameras

On June 15 2010, with little fanfare or debate, the Charles County commissioners approved the use of speed cameras. A public hearing was held on June 15 to discuss the ordinance (Bill#2010-10), however no members of the public other than county officials were present to speak. The county website shows that the legislation was unanimously approved the same day. The 'press releases' section of the county website did not include a posting for the hearing or for the passage of the legislation.

The legislation goes into effect July 30th. Before deploying cameras the county will need to sign a contract with a speed camera vendor. The legislation states that the cameras will only be used in "school zones", however in most of the rest of the state local governments have simply created new school zones solely for the use of speed cameras regardless of whether those locations were ever considered school zones previously (despite published guidelines from the SHA stating that this should not be done).

Concerned citizens can contact the board of commissioners :
email: commissioner@charlescounty.org
mail: 200 Baltimore Street
P.O. Box 2150, La Plata, MD 20646
phone: 301-645-0550 . 301-870-3000

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

DC Adds New Cameras, Revenues Surge

DC is on track for another record year of speed camera revenues. Data released by the DC police show that DC speed cameras brought in $24,828 in the first 8 months of FY2010, compared with $20,228,725 for the same 8 months in FY09. Based on this the district is in an excellent position to exceed year $33million in revenue and 553,900 citations from the cameras last year. Much of this revenue has come from Maryland residents.

Dc claims the cameras are not for revenue (as they all say) and have reduced speeding., But AAA spokesman John Townsend had a different view on the cameras success, saying the cameras have not modified driver behavior: "It seems that the District has been paying lip service to traffic safety, but people realize it's all about the revenue and they're not changing their behavior." he quoted to the Washington Examiner.

To keep the cash flowing DC is adding 12 new speed camera locations, many of which are located near the border with Maryland. The following new camera locations were announced earlier in July. Pay particular mind to the addition of three camera sites on I-295.

New mobile radar locations
* 3500 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. SE (North)
* 3500 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. SE (South)
* 1400 Alabama Ave. SE (East)
* 1400 Alabama Ave. SE (West).
* 5200 Southern Ave. SE (South)
* 3100 North Capitol St. NE (North).
* Interstate-295 at Exit 1 SW (South)
* 4100 South Dakota Ave. NE (North).
* Suitland Pkwy SE (.9m south of Stanton Road eastbound)
* Suitland Pkwy SE (.2m south of Stanton Road westbound)

New "work zone: camera locations
* I-295 at Eastern Avenue NE (North)
* I-295 at Eastern Avenue NE (South)

With the new additions the District has 10 fixed location cameras plus 35 mobile locations patrolled by 12 camera units.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Arizona Shuts Down Freeway Scameras

As of midnight last night the State of Arizona shut down all of its freeway speed cameras. Governor Jan Brewer (R) decided to end the state's two year photo enforcement contract with Redflex which her predecessor, Janet Napolitano (D) signed. The state will remove a total of 76 fixed and mobile cameras from Arizona state highways by labor day.

The move was largely in response to a year long effort by the group CameraFraud.com whose slogan 'The Cameras Are Coming Down" is finally coming to pass. Additionally, the program began to lose profitability when many drivers learned that Arizona law required in person service of citations and refused to pay. Governor Napolitano (now serving as Secretary of Homeland Security) had previously predicted the cameras would bring in $90million in revenue, but in fact over half of the citations issued remain uncollected and unenforceable.

Several municipal programs still continue to operate in Arizona, and CameraFRAUD has pledged to bring the cameras down in those cities one by one, bypassing the legislature with local referendums.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Princess Anne Considering Speed Cams

WMDT47 News has reported that the town of Princess Anne(Somerset County) is considering creating a speed camera program. The County Commissioners will be discussing the matter in their July 26th work session. The town would need to pass an ordinance authorizing the use of speed monitoring systems prior to their use. It is unclear whether the date announced constitutes a 'public hearing' for such legislation. We could find no mention of speed cameras anywhere on the town's website and no agenda was listed on the town website for the meeting listed in the WMDT story.

Residents who wish to state their views should contact the town commissioners NOW and not wait until AFTER the cameras are deployed to do so.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

New Forest Heights Speed Cameras Enrage Residents

 The Gazette has reported that residents in the Prince George's County town of Forest Heights have taken issue with newly installed speed cameras on state highway 210.


==================================================================
Update 5/19/2011: Please read our Full Investigation into Forest Heights Speed Camera Errors, learn how these citations have been failing to hold up in court, and see the town and their contractor's desperate attempts to hide the truth from the public.
==================================================================

The cameras are located on Indian Head Highway/ Route 210 just south of the intersection with Livingston Road in Forest Heights. The speed limit drops from 40-mph to 35mph immediately before the cameras. Some residents claim that "the town ignored recommendations — although not mandates — by the Maryland State Highway Administration not to install the cameras on a hill or near traffic signals, highway ramps or speed-transition zones, as the two cameras are."

The article states that the town created a 1/2 mile long new school zone on highway 210 (just as many other towns and cities have been doing), since the town is only authorized under state law to use the cameras in school zones. Residents noted that the highway is not close to crosswalks, has limited egress, no schools in the immediate area, and leads to a ramp for the Capital Beltway. There are two elementary schools in Forest Heights, but neither one is along highway 210. The town also spent $10,000 (of taxpayer money) on a 'feasibility study' that determined the highway 210 location was adequate "because of high traffic volume".

Mayor Andrea McCutcheon claims that the speed cameras are justified in that location because "the majority of drivers are exceeding the speed limit", even though by definition that means the speed limit is NOT set at the 85th percentile speed which is the recommended speed limit by many standard traffic engineering practices.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Prince George's County Stonewalls Public Information Act Request

Officials in the Prince George's County Government have ignored a Maryland Public Information Act(MPIA) request sent by StopBigBrotherMD.org for now over 3 months.

We sent a request to the Prince George's DPWT and county executive's office for the following information on March 11, 2009:
"1) Whether Prince George’s County has received requests by any municipalities in Prince George’s County to create new school zones or to expand existing school zones on county maintained roads since April 1, 2009. If so, I wish to receive copies of those requests.
2) Whether Prince George’s County has received requests by any municipalities in Prince George’s County for permission to use speed cameras on county maintained roads since April 1, 2009. If so, I wish to receive copies of those requests.
3) If any of those requests were accepted or rejected, I wish to receive copies of the letters or documents making the acceptances or rejections.
4) Whether since April 10, 2009 Prince George’s County has stated that there would be any exactions, fees, or that there would be additional requirements beyond those stipulated in state law article 21-803 and 21-809, either for the creation of new school zones or for the municipality to receive permission to use speed cameras on any roads. If so, I wish to receive copies of the letters or documents which stated this.
"

In the request we mentioned that we believed the records were relevant to new legislation being discussed before the state legislature at that time, and that the public had a right to see them before that legislation was voted on. It was our interpretation that this legislation was intended to facilitate the creation of new school zones by Prince George's Municipalities solely for the purpose of using speed cameras, as had already been occurring in a significant number of locations. This interpretation is supported by the fiscal policy note which read "To the extent the bill results in the placement of additional speed monitoring systems in Prince George’s County, Transportation Trust Fund (TTF), special fund, and general fund revenues increase from penalties and court costs paid following a contested case under the bill, and TTF revenues increase from the collection of additional fees by the Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) associated with the nonpayment of speed monitoring system citations." and "Revenues may increase significantly for Prince George’s County and any municipal corporation in the county that establishes a speed monitoring system as a result of the prepayment of fines in uncontested cases." However our emails and phone calls to some of the sponsors asking for clarification of the legislation's purpose went unanswered.