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.

Baltimore City's cameras are owned and maintained by the same contractor as Montgomery County's cameras, ACS State and Local Solutions. As with Montgomery County the contractor receives a fee which is based on the number of citations. The city of Baltimore signed the agreement in 2009 after writing $7million in revenues into its FY2010 budget before the camera locations were even selected.

Maryland State law requires speed camera citations to be approved by a police officer, which is normally done using software provided by the camera vendor. Yet apparently all 932 of these citations passed through that whatever review process took place without the problem being noticed.

(update 9/28/2012: an archived video clip of the news report can be seen here)