Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Montgomery County Safe Speed Also Missing Camera Logs

Earlier we reported that the City Of Gaithersburg did not have daily self test logs recorded every day for some of its cameras. It turns out that this is the case for some county-run cameras as well.

We have discovered that several cameras managed by Montgomery County (not just Gaithersburg) have similar gaps in the daily setup logs. Logs for 3 randomly selected cameras were requested via a public information act request, along with the number of citations issued on each day. The results showed that for each of the 12 camera/days the test was NOT performed on that day, in each case at least 2 days went by with no daily self test log. 9 of the 12 camera/days had citations being issued, with 1 report of 0 citations and 2 camera days where no response was provided (the reason for those 3 days is not know at this time)

27000 Ridge Road SB
Date Requested _ Date Set Up _ Date Shut Down _ #Citations Issued on Requested Day
11-28-2009 _____ 11/27/09 ____ 11/30/09 _______ 60
12-27-2009 _____ 12/23/09
____ 12/28/09 _______ 63
01-03-2010
_____ 12/31/09 ____ 01/05/10 _______ 37
01-31-2010
_____ 01/28/09 ____ 02/01/10 _______ 21

19600 Georgia Ave NB
Date Requested _ Date Set Up _ Date Shut Down _ #Citations Issued on Requested Day
11-28-2009 _____ 11/27/09 ____ 11/30/09 _______ 64
12-27-2009
_____ 12/24/09 ____ 12/28/09 _______ 74
01-03-2010
_____ 12/31/09 ____ 01/04/10 _______ 53
01-31-2010
_____ 01/29/09 ____ 02/01/10 _______ 49

13600Darnestown Rd Wb
Date Requested _ Date Set Up _ Date Shut Down _ #Citations Issued on Requested Day
11-28-2009 _____ 11/27/09 ____ 11/30/09 _______ 52
12-27-2009
_____ 12/24/09 ____ 12/28/09 _______ unknown
01-03-2010
_____ 12/31/09 ____ 01/05/10 _______ unknown
01-31-2010
_____ 01/29/09 ____ 02/01/10 _______ 0
 

A story in the Washington Examiner quoted Captain John Damskey of the Montgomery County Safe Speed program saying "We're not going to do this [test] every day. We're just not going to do that." They county claims that the cameras 'shut down if they malfunction and can be assessed remotely.' However the wording of the Maryland state law authorizing speed cameras states:
"(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;
(ii) Shall be kept on file; and
(iii) Shall be admitted as evidence in any court proceeding for a violation of this section.
"

In plain English this requires that checks be performed by 'the operator', that the operator sign a log that they have done this, and that those logs be presented in court as evidence if the defendant requests a hearing. No such logs have been presented either in court or in response to public information requests for any 'automatic tests' in those instances when the checks were not performed on a given day.

The camera vendor(ACS State and Local Solutions) who owns, installs, and maintains the cameras receives a portion of each citation. This is being challenged by a lawsuit because it may conflict with another section of state law banning contingent fees. The county's defense is that they claim the county, rather than the contractor, has exclusive responsibility for performing the duties of a camera operator. Performing these self-tests is defined under state law as one such duty. Failing to perform the tests and instead relying on an automatic system could place control in the hands of the camera vendor and/or the automated systems the vendor created, leaving ACS as 'the operator'.