Sunday, August 5, 2012

Baltimore Contractor Gets Bigger Piece of Scamera Revenue

The City of Baltimore has negotiated a new contract with its speed camera contractor which increases the cut of the ticket fines which the contractor receives,according to an article in the Baltimore Sun.  The contract will increase the amount received by contractor Xerox State and Local Solutions Inc. — formerly known as ACS State and Local Solutions -- from 35 percent of the camera revenue to 48 percent starting in November.  The new contact also extends the prior deal which was scheduled to end in July 2012, though the end of the year.

By comparison, Montgomery County pays the same contractor $16.25 per citation or about 40% of the ticket revenue.

According to the Sun, the new deal was approved by the City Board of Estimates "without discussion".

A larger cut of the fine money would seem to increase the contractor's financial incentive to maximize the number of citations issued.  However no comparable financial incentive appears to exist to maximize accuracy or the integrity of due process the system provides.  Baltimore's speed camera program has produced numerous errors and procedural problems, most of which received only very limited attention by the media:
- In March 2012 it was discovered that the city had issued 2000 citations from two cameras configured to the wrong speed limit.  At that time, city officials claimed that they had 'three tiers of review' to prevent errors, and that errors constitute only about 1% of citations issued. 
- In February 2011, WBALTV reported how 2000 red light camera violations had been 'signed' by a deceased Baltimore City Police officer, proving that the required citation review could not have been properly performed. 
- In February 2011, we reported on a case where Baltimore issued an erroneous citation to the wrong vehicle.  In this instance it took the motorist many months to completely remove the offense from the system and clear the flag on his registration at the MVA.
- In February 2012 we reported on a case where a motorist was unable to obtain a hearing for a red light camera citation issued in Baltimore for a right turn which he believed was made legally
- In January 2012, a case in which Baltimore issued a speed camera citation to a man who had been deceased for several years. 
- In April 2010 an incident was reported where Baltimore issued over 900 citations from yet another erroneously configured speed cameras, which had been set to enforce the wrong speed limit.
- Between December 2011 and April 2012 Baltimore issued over 3000 citations were issued showing incorrect addresses for the violations.

Earlier this year Baltimore City sent representatives to the General Assembly to lobby in favor of legislation which would have removed the requirement that citations be reviewed by sworn police officers, claiming that review by police was unnecessary.  The bill passed in the House of Delegates but died in committee in the state senate. The legislation, had it passed, would have permitted private contractors to review citations instead of police, further reducing the amount of oversight in the system and greatly increasing the amount of control private contractors have over the issuance of citations.  The proposed legislation is likely to return in some form next year.