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.

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.
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."