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.

The contract would pay ACS $3000/camera per camera plus a $8.75 contingent fee per citation.  In the discussion that followed the discussion demonstrated that the Council members were unwilling to pay one dime for the 'safety benefits' of the cameras.

Alderman Young suggested they would not be interested in maintaining the program if it cost the city ANY money, and that if the violations dropped off they could say 'You know what this program isn't paying for itself we don't have enough violations to make it worthwhile, no we don't need it anymore,  no we're not going to pay the $3000 anymore'".  However the discussion made clear that they were nearly guaranteed to produce money, because it only takes 96 tickets in a month to cover the city's expenses.  Concerns were also express that revenue might drop off in future years.  A representative from the police noted that the number of violations in their red light camera program has decreased only 'marginally' over the past five years.

Alderman Aloi expressed concern about a termination clause which would require the city to pay some of ACS's costs if the city terminated without cause.  Which the office brushed off "I estimate in three years we'd probably get ten times that amount of revenue."  Officer Heather dismissed the concern that they'd ever want to cancel the contract without cause "I estimate in three years we'd probably get ten times that amount of revenue.".  Alderman Aloi was the sole vote against the contract.

One alderwoman asked ACS how much revenue their cameras in Bowie were bringing in.  ACS responded their cameras had been sending out 400 citations per day per camera, to which the alderwoman responded "WOW" several times.

Some of the thing which were NEVER brought up in the meeting were very telling:
  • Not one question was asked about the accuracy of the cameras, or whether ACS had any experience with citations being issued in error.
  • Not one question was asked about due process issues, or what rights a defendant had if they wanted to challenge a citation. 
  • The ACS Representative said police would spend 'less than 20 seconds' to review each citation.  Yet there was not one question about what sort of meaningful review could really take place in 20 seconds.
  • Not one question was asked about who is responsible for maintaining or operating the cameras.
  • Not one question was asked about who would represent the prosecution in court hearings, or about the type of evidence trail that would be maintained.
Frederick Residents, aren't you glad the council isn't wasting time quibbling over details like YOUR RIGHTS so they could focus instead on making money?  We like to talk about how people are 'guilty until proven innocent' with speed cameras.  Well that starts with local lawmakers who simply assume that due process rights don't matter because the cameras are always right, that everyone who receives a ticket is guilty, even though in reality innocent people do get tickets!

Alderman Krimm referenced the work zone camera being added on Route 15 at a construction project where the speed limit was lowered from 55mph to 45mph and jokingly added that it would "probably pay for the project".

The discussion and the agenda item confirms that the "school zones" cameras were deployed in were all recently created for speed camera deployment and that they would cover almost the entire city.

It was stated that the number of cameras was not yet decided, but that the plan would be to start with "single digits" and then expand that number over time.  In the discussion regarding how camera sites would be selected, it was stated that the decision would be made jointly between the city and ACS.  Officer Heather at one point stated that the criteria for sites would include "how much money the cameras would bring in".  When a council member asked whether the schools would be involved in the decision, the police officer's response was that they were involved in the initial selection of school zones (which of course were decided to cover almost the entire city).

The ACS representative stated that there would be a bill presented to the general assembly next year to raise the $40 fine for speed camera citations (How many times have we tried to tell people that the current speed camera law is merely a SPECIAL INTRODUCTORY OFFER and that the restrictions would all be removed over time? )

Originally we had thought we'd have to wait a few months until the program was in full swing before we could show that everything people were being told was a lie, and that this program was really just about money.  Thank you Frederick City Aldermen for not making us wait.

Not convinced?  Just watch the video. Concerned citizens can find the contact info for Frederick City Aldermen HERE