Friday, April 30, 2010

Baltimore City Speed Camera Issues Hundreds of Tickets In Error

Copy of letter sent to recipients of bogus speed camera tickets
A speed camera located at 2200 West Cold Spring Lane in Baltimore issued at least 932 citations after being calibrated with the wrong speed limit. A report by WBFF TV revealed that the camera had been configured for a speed limit of 30mph when the posted speed limit was in fact 35mph. Over 200 of the citations had already been paid by the time the city Department of Transportation admitted the error. The city has stated that the tickets would be voided and the paid citations refunded, however at the time of the report this had not yet occurred.

WBFF also reported that the location apparently was not marked as a school zone. Under state law speed cameras in Baltimore can only be used in School zones or work zones, and according to state transportation article 21-803 a road is only considered school zone if it is marked by appropriate signage. Baltimore City circumvented this by creating large number of new school zones solely for the purpose of using speed cameras -- even though doing so conflicts with State Highway Administration guidelines -- and in some cases the city has added the speed cameras before putting up the legally required signs.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Sykesville Officials Use Public Funds to Influence Speed Camera Vote

Local elected officials in the Town of Sykesville are using taxpayer funds to pay for political advertising meant to influence the outcome of the upcoming Speed Camera referendum on Tuesday May 4rth. At an April 12th meeting the town council approved funding to support the vote including 2 mass "informational mailings". The first letter was written by the town manager (a full time employee of the town paid out of taxpayer funds), and was mailed to all Sykesville residents at public expense. A second mailing which will explain "the benefits of photo enforcement" (but no counter-arguments) is scheduled to be delivered shortly before the vote takes place.

The first mailing presents various arguments for speed cameras and against various alternatives to the cameras without including any arguments of cameras opponents. The letter, written on stationary bearing Mayor Michael Miller's name, also attempts to discredit the petitioners by referring to them as "outside special interest groups" who went around knocking on doors "spreading disinformation". The petition organizer, Chris Martin, is a longtime Sykesville resident who has not accepted funding from any outside organizations for the effort and who has stated that he has paid the group's modest expenses out of pocket

The petition organizers were not informed about the mailing, were not given the opportunity review or comment on it before it was sent. They were not permitted to include a rebuttal or response in the mailings.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Gaithersburg Skips Speed Camera Checks, Scoffs at Law

The City of Gaithersburg is routinely ignoring state law and failing to perform daily tests on their speed cameras.

A provision of the Maryland law authorizing speed cameras states the following:
"(3) A speed monitoring system operator shall fill out and sign a daily set-up log for a speed monitoring system that:
(i) States that the speed monitoring system operator successfully performed the manufacturer specified self test of the speed monitoring system prior to producing a recorded image;"

A member of became aware that the tests were not always being done and requested several daily self test logs from Gaithersburg. The selected dates were all weekends. (Unlike the rest of the state Montgomery County an its municipalities are permitted to use 'residential zone' cameras which, unlike school zone cameras, are permitted to issue tickets 24/7 including weekends. As of summer 2009 about 80% of the camera sites located in Montgomery County fell into this category.)

Three log files were obtained for a camera located at 500 S Frederick Road, and not one of those logs showed the daily self test performed on that day. For December 5 2009, the start of the period was Dec 4 and the end was Dec 7 -- 3 days. For Jan 17, 2010 it was Jan 13-19 -- 6 days. For Dec 27, 2009 it was Dec 18-28 -- 10 days without a 'daily' setup log. The response from the city showed that citations were definitely issued from the cameras on each of the three selected days.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Head of Montgomery County Safe Speed Moving to Greener Pastures

The director of Montgomery County's Automated Traffic Enforcement programs, Maurice Nelson, is taking a position to lead Brekford Corporation's new Automated Traffic Enforcement Program. Brekford entered the speed and red light camera business in Maryland when it purchased RedSpeed, Inc last year.

Mr Nelson has a great deal of previous experience in speed and red light cameras. According to the press release "Prior to joining Montgomery County Police, Mr. Nelson worked for Affiliated Computer Services (ACS) as a Senior Program Manager responsible for implementation of the nationally recognized Washington, DC speed camera program. Under Mr. Nelson's oversight, the DC program grossed nearly $27M annually for the city's traffic safety efforts."

In his position as director for Montgomery County's Automated Traffic Enforcement Division, Nelson was in a key position to ensure the expansion of the County's Automated Traffic Enforcement program which which has paid tens of millions of dollars in fees to Affiliated Computer Services(ACS) under the county's contingent fee speed camera contract (currently being challenged by a class action lawsuit for allegedly violating state law). The press release credits Mr. Nelson with "acquiring nearly $35M in revenue" in the first 2.5 years he managed the Montgomery County Red Light Camera program.

Mr Nelson has also been able to aggressively pursue expansion of Speed camera laws, which both Brekford and ACS will benefit from significantly: "Mr. Nelson's charisma and expertise have afforded him the opportunity to represent the Automated Enforcement industry on key legislative issues. He was instrumental in crafting the automated speed enforcement program in Charlotte, North Carolina and provided legislative testimony for NC, MD and DC governing councils. Mr. Nelson's experience in legislation along with his congressional testimony has been the essential factor to the adoption of the first speed camera legislation in the State of Maryland (Montgomery County). This continued legislative work ultimately resulted in what is now a fully adopted statewide law."

Based on Brekford's press release, Mr Nelson no doubt has a promising and lucrative career ahead of him: "the U.S. photo enforcement industry is projected to be doing an estimated $150M per year in revenue and total available market could be 35,000 intersections in the near future, which would make it a nearly $1B industry in the U.S. alone."