Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Next Stop, Stop Sign Cameras

photo from TheNewspaper.com
The District of Columbia will be introducing a new type of automated enforcement for ticketing motorists who run stop signs, and one Maryland town is asking the Maryland Legislature to follow suit.

WTOP reports that 24 of the new cameras will "initially" start issuing tickets within the next few months, with citations costing $50.

DC already has cameras for speeding and red light running, including making rolling right turns on red, and has been making plans to use them for 'blocking the box' and 'failure to yield to pedestrians'.  They even have cameras attached to street sweepers enforcing parking violations for motorists who fail to move their cars during specified street sweeping hours.

It was recently reported that the Maryland town of Glen Echo has requested that the state legislature approve the use of stop sign cameras by the town.  The Town claimed that 81% of motorists were running a particular stop sign at Glen Echo park.  The criteria they used to get this statistic was not "stopping behind the white line and counting a full second".  This indicates that if stop sign cameras are deployed in Maryland as Glen Echo has requested, they would issue citations not only to people making 'rolling stops' at 1-2mph, but also to people who make full stops but slightly past the white line (which people often do so they can see into the intersection) and people who stop but for less than 1 second (which people often do because they have already confirmed there is no other vehicular or pedestrian traffic).

Friday, August 24, 2012

Hyper-Sensitive Red Light Cams in Montgomery County?

Some of the brand new red light cameras in Rockville/Montgomery County have been observed "flashing" cars when there is no obvious red light running violations, far more frequently than was observed in the past. (see example below)


This has been observed on several cameras installed on Rockville Pike and all along Gude Drive, it is not a fluke.

We would like to hear from anyone who has received a citation from one of these new cameras.  We'd particularly like to hear from anyone who was ticketed in Maryland for "white line running" (making a full stop, but not behind the white line) as opposed to actual "red light running", or for making a right turn, or for infinitesimal times after the red.  Please email us at StopBigBrotherMD@gmail.com.

Update 8/27: Several motorists have confirmed that YES Rockville's cameras have in fact been issuing tickets to people making right turns.... and apparently in not insignificant numbers. If you have gotten such a ticket, please help us document it.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Maryland High Court: The Crown Can Do No Wrong

The Maryland Court of Appeals has reached a decision in the case of Baker v Montgomery County, regarding Montgomery County's Contingent Fee contract (View Ruling).  The state high court ruled that state law does not permit a class action lawsuit against a speed camera program, but declined to rule on the main issue in dispute regarding whether or not the contractor "Operates" the cameras and as such violates the law. The verdict will likely block other class actions filed on any grounds, not merely suits filed on this particular issue.

StopBigBrotherMD.org has reported many times about the lawsuit, which has been ongoing since 2008.  Article 21-809(j) states "If a contractor operates a speed monitoring system on behalf of a local jurisdiction, the contractor's fee may not be contingent on the number of citations issued or paid."  However Montgomery County, as well as the local jurisdictions Rockville and Gaithersburg, each signed contracts with speed camera vendor ACS State and Local Solutions (a division of Xerox Corporation) to pay a fee of $16.25 per ticket.  Attorney Timothy Leahy of the law firm Byrd and Byrd, LLC filed suit in 2008 against Montgomery County in the case(filed as 'Baker v Montgomery County Maryland'), alleging the contract violates that provision. The lower court ruled against the plaintiffs, and the appeal was eventually brought to the Court of Appeals.

The primary reason the Court of Appeals ruled that the case could not proceed is that the government had not authorized itself to be sued:  "Maryland Code, Transportation Article, § 21-809 does not provide an implied private cause of action to sue local governments that utilize speed monitoring systems."
They further explain: "A private cause of action in favor of a particular plaintiff or class of plaintiffs does not exist simply because a claim is framed that a statute was violated and a plaintiff or class of plaintiffs was harmed by it." and "the legislative history of § 21-809 does not reveal a legislative intent to create an implied private cause of action"

StopBigBrotherMD's opinion and translation of this is simple: The purpose of the court is to divine legislative intent. And in this case, the court has concluded that the legislature's intent was that once a speed camera program has your money, they never give it back.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Montgomery County Switching Camera Tech

A Fixed Poliscan unit
Montgomery County's Speed Camera Contractor has replaced much of the county's photo enforcement equipment under a contract mod signed last September, including both red light and speed cameras.

The contract mod, WHICH YOU CAN SEE HERE, specifies that the county will replace all current red light camera systems with new "RLCS-1" systems, and all existing speed cameras with the contractor's latest Gatsometer RS-GS11 and Vitronic Poliscan equipment.  The contract mod was signed with ACS State and Local Solutions (now a division of Xerox Corporation), covers the county's 40 red light camera sites, 60 fixed speed camera sites, 10 'portable speed camera units" (ie "trash cams") and 6 mobile speed camera units (camera vans).  It also called for the addition of 10 new portable speed camera systems, and 20 additional red light cameras in the first year.  There is an option in the second year of the mod to add another 20 red light cameras, another 10 portable speed cameras, and for possible additional units added in subsequent years.

You may have noticed we refrained from using the term "upgrade" to describe the new systems.... 

Friday, August 10, 2012

Riverdale Suspends Speed Camera WhistleBlower

Riverdale Park Mayor Vernon Archer
The Town of Riverdale Park has allegedly retaliated against a police officer who revealed information about fraudulent citation review procedures in the Town of Riverdale Park.

On August 6 it was reported that Riverdale Park Corporal Clayton Alford had stepped forwards with evidence that civilians working for Riverdale Park had approved citations using the officer's ID, in violation of state law, and then the officer's signature was digitally imprinted on citations he had not reviewed or approved.  Alford's attorney has stated that he had stepped forwards to avoid the risk of being forced to perjure himself if called to testify in court.  Now, WTTG reports that the town has placed Corporal Alford on suspension the day after the complaint was filed, taking his badge and gun, and allegedly threatened to fire him if he did not keep quiet.

Riverdale Park Mayor Vernon Archer and Police Captain Patrick Timmons refused to respond to questions by WTTG about the allegations, according to the report.

"Hopefully the political leaders of Riverdale Park are going to come to the conclusion that he is in fact the hero of the story and the villains will be dealt with," said Clayton's attorney Timothy Leahy.

The town of Brentwood had a similar situation in 2010 when over 3000 had been apparently approved under the authority of an officer who was on administrative leave.  However in that instance, the town voluntarily refunded the citations.  Riverdale has apparently chosen a different, more shameful approach: Silence the leak and keep the loot!

See full coverage on WTTG Fox 5 News
 
Update 08/10/12@8PM:
   Both WTOP and The Gazette now report that the town declined to provide comment on the case.

Update 6/12/2013: The court has dismissed the lawsuit against the town.  In their request for summary judgement, Riverdale Park DID NOT DISPUTE the factual basis of the claims that citations were approved by an officer who did not review or approve the tickets.  Rather, the court ruled that The People cannot file suit against a speed camera program FOR ANY REASON because the law does not explicitly authorize the government to be sued -- regardless of whether the town's activities were illegal.  READ COURT RULING
This is based on a prior court ruling filed on a different basis which drew the same conclusion, that speed camera programs are not subject to being sued under Maryland law REGARDLESS OF THE FACTUAL OR LEGAL BASIS FOR THE SUIT.  

Thursday, August 9, 2012

DC Cop Pleads Guilty in Photo Radar Fraud

A DC police officer has plead guilty to falsifying calibration logs for the District's speed camera program.

Prosecutors said David Cephas, a 22 year veteran of the Metropolitan Police Department, falsified logs that certified the deployment times for district speed cameras.  According to one report, the defendant faked required hourly tests by first setting the device's internal clock back by one hour, then setting it forwards again and re-running the test, making it appear on the logs that the device had been checked at both times.

The district refunded $17,000 worth of fines for 200 photo radar tickets, and Cephas was required to pay the district $17,550 in restitution.

Full coverage on:
   WJLA
   Washington Examiner
   Washington Post

NOW if Maryland officials will only do something about the even worse case of speed camera citation fraud in Riverdale Park.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Lawsuit Accuses Riverdale Park Speed Camera Program of Fraud

A lawsuit has been filed alleging that the Town of Riverdale Park committed fraud by permitted civilians to approve speed camera citations and then imprint the signature of a police officer who had not approved the citations.  A police officer has refused to participate in this and has stepped forwards with information about the town's actions.

The lawsuit alleges that in 2011, civilian employees logged into the system using Corporal Clayton Alford's ID and approved thousands of citations.  As a result, Corporal Alford's name, ID, and signature was imprinted on those citations, even during a period when he was on leave and not approving citations for several weeks.

Maryland transportation article 21-809 requires that all citations must contain "A signed statement by a duly authorized law enforcement officer employed by or under contract with an agency that, based on inspection of recorded images, the motor vehicle was being operated in violation of this subtitle". 

Correspondence cited in the lawsuit shows that speed camera contractor Optotraffic's liaison to the town, Angenette Criner, was copied in emails from civilians who had "cleared out approvals in the queue".  This indicates that Optotraffic was notified that civilians were logging in to the approval system.  Optotraffic provides the speed cameras and related services, including mailing citations and collecting fines for the town.

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.