Thursday, December 13, 2012

Baltimore Camera Cited Non-Moving Car For Speeding

Baltimore City's speed camera program continues to be pummeled by bad news about erroneous speed camera readings.  The Baltimore Sun reports that one camera located at 1700 E Cold Spring Lane issued a speed camera citation to a Mazda 5 which was STATIONARY at the time.  The citation, dated April 24 2012, accused the vehicle of traveling 38mph in a 25mph zone, when in fact both the citation images and the recorded video prove it was completely stopped at a red light and not moving at the time.  The motorist in question requested a court hearing, scheduled for December 14.

You can see the video and citation images in the article on the Baltimore Sun website.

Baltimore city claimed to the Baltimore Sun that every citation goes through "two layers of review".  Every citation is required to bear the signature of a police officer who affirmed "based on inspection of recorded images" that the cited vehicle was in violation, according to state law.

The erroneous speed readings by Baltimore cameras were first discovered to have affected large vehicles such as trucks and delivery vans passing one camera at 1300 W Cold Spring Lane.  However the Baltimore Sun investigation has since concluded that apparent speed measurement errors have occurred with at least 7 cameras and have affected regular passenger cars as well.

City officials have stated that a city-wide investigation was underway to investigate errors. inquired by email to the city on November 27 with several questions about the type of speed camera which has been making the errors, how many locations that type of camera was used at, how many citations had been re-examined as part of their investigation, and how many citations were being voided.  The city responded on Nov 30 that they were awaiting answers from their contractor, and would provide those answers on December 10 when Xerox's investigation was scheduled to conclude.  On Dec 10, the city reported back that they still had not yet received answers from Xerox.

In fact, the errors were reported to Xerox Corp months earlier, according to documents obtained by StopBigBrotherMD, showing complaints received by the city in February and in July of 2012 which the city referred to their contractor.  Additional documents obtained by StopBigBrotherMD showed city officials expressing their frustration with Xerox's inability to identify the cause of the errors which had been reported to them.  Xerox claimed in July that they had attempted to reproduce the errors by driving a truck past the camera, but could not reproduce errors the city had reported to them.

The document also notes that Xerox contacted the manufacturer of the camera, who stated "a combination of radar effects (interference) and environmental factors (presence of vehicles traveling in the opposite direction) is likely the cause of the high speed readings.  In the cases you sent us, the very flat, metallic, back panel of these types of truck can act as a RF mirror and cause radar signal reflection that can bounce between the receding vehicle(truck) and the approaching vehicle (car in the opposite direction) and results in high doppler changes, hence higher speed readings"
The Xerox additionally stated that "The way our system is set up, we send events that are more than 35mph over the enforcement speed to a speed review queue.  In most instances the events that end up in that queue are triggered by some sort of larger truck and they do not get issued.  The events you've forwarded to us did not meet that threshold to make it into the speed review queue, but after all of the investigations, we believe they should not have been issued."

The stationary vehicle cited in this most recent incident was also not accused of traveling 35mph over the limit, and therefore would not have made it into the "speed review queue" either, but the speed measurement was still apparently off by 38mph.  However it is apparent from this email that Xerox has other samples of errors which DID make it into their "speed review queue" and were not issued, and has know about this for months before the errors became public knowledge.

Baltimore City recently declined to renew Xerox Corp's contract, issuing a new contract to competitor Brekford Corp that will start in 2013.