Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Review

Everyone else does it so I guess we should too.

Our top stories of 2013
1) Despite much bluster about "reforming" the state's speed camera law, the General Assembly ends without passing any reform bill and without allowing a speed camera repeal bill to come to a vote.

2) Baltimore City's speed camera program shut down after revelations of hundreds of erroneous tickets.  The issues occurred on the tail of numerous prior revelations of errors which had been documented in 2012.  The program remained shut down for the remainder of the year until December when the city finally gave up on its contract with Brekford Corp under an agreement under which both sides were required to keep the reasons for the split secret.

3) A Maryland Court ruled that agencies which run speed cameras can profit by committing forgery, deciding that the public has no standing to file a class action lawsuit against a speed camera program even if the basis of the suit involves a violation of criminal law.

4) The state's Open Meetings Compliance Board found that Baltimore's speed camera task force had violated the "open meetings act" by holding a secret meeting at a Brekford facility which excluded the public and the press.

5) Speed camera contractor Brekford Corp was forced to refund citations issued in Hagerstown and Greenbelt after it was revealed that cameras had not been re-calibrated every 12 months as required by law.

6) DC issued three speed camera tickets to a Baltimore City resident whose car had never even been in the city.

7) The Town of Fairmount Heights was forced to shut down its speed camera program after it was revealed it never obtained permits to run the required speed cameras.

8) A Montgomery County speed camera falsely accused a non-speeding motorist, by issuing a citation which contained pictures of completely different cars in the two images.  Montgomery County had bragged in emailed testimony to a state lawmaker that their program has "an accuracy rate in the 90% range".

9) The State Legislature jacked up gas taxes and substantially increased tolls on roads and bridges across the state.

10) A Prince George's County parking enforcement officers was indicted for falsifying parking tickets, issuing thousands of dollars of tickets to innocent motorists.

11) Salisbury stalled access to speed camera calibration records requested under the Maryland Public Information Act by the Maryland Drivers Alliance for several months.  When the documents were finally released months later after a request by a media organization, the documents revealed gaps in calibrations similar to those which occurred in Hagerstown and Greenbelt.  The city was also unable to produce "daily setup logs" for most days for which they had been requested and some of the few which were produced contained defects.  The City has yet to announce any large scale refunds.

12) A lawsuit was filed to obtain documents pertaining to speed camera errors from the Town of Brentwood, after we had been unsuccessful in obtaining responsive documents from the town under a Public Information Act request for a period of almost three years.  The town has provided some documents since the case was filed, but the matter is still pending.

13) The Town of Morningside responded to a Public Information Act request for calibration records by stating that it maintains no calibration records.  A lawsuit has been filed to obtain the calibration records.  Some motorists had complained of receiving inaccurate citations from the town.  It was also revealed that Prince George's County had in fact rejected Morningside's request for permission to deploy speed cameras, but that the town had deployed them anyways.

14) A secret speed camera meeting was hosted by the Maryland Association of Counties, the Montgomery County and Prince George's County Government, and the Maryland Municipal League which banned the public and the press from observing.  The Maryland Drivers Alliance had been invited to attend the event by AAA (who also co-sponsored the event) but our representative was barred from entry at the door.  The head of Montgomery County's speed camera program specifically stated to our representative at the time that we would not be allowed entry because our organization opposes speed cameras.

15) A Montgomery County Circuit court ruled that not being the driver of a vehicle can be an affirmative defense for a speed camera citation, according to the wording of state law.  Another court ruled that if the county did not publish the locations of speed cameras in advance this can also be a valid defense.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Legislature May Take Another Stab at Camera Reform

Two bills pertaining to speed cameras have been pre-filed for the 2014 general assembly which begins in January.

Delegate John Cardin has pre-filed a bill labeled House Bill 57.  Cardin introduced such a bill to the House last year, which had the following provisions:

  • Require that all speed camera citations provide sufficient information to verify the vehicle speed based on time-distance calculations.
  • Impose a fine for the issuance of erroneous citations, payable into the transportation trust fund.
  • Ban the practice of paying contractors based on the number of citations issued
  • Allow an "organization that represents the interest of motorists" to file suit to enforce the provisions of the bill.  (this is arguably the most important aspect of the bill, since right now NONE of the requirements of the law are truly enforcible on local governments)

Cardin's bill may not fix every problem with Maryland's speed camera law.  However The Maryland Drivers Alliance had supported a version this bill in the house last year, and also supported a bill sponsored by Senator James Brochin in the senate which contained some similar provisions, because we believed they represented the best ideas to protect the rights of drivers which stood any chance in the current legislature.

Delegate Conaway pre-filed another bill labeled as HB 71, which if a citation were found to have been issued in error, would order the court to impose a $125 penalty on "the person responsible for maintaining the speed monitoring system" payable to the recipient of the ticket.  Conaway sponsored a similar bill last year.

Last year saw a flurry of legislation similar to these prompted by revelations that Baltimore City's speed camera program had issued erroneous citations based on incorrect speed readings.  Complaints were also raised that the now common practice of paying contractors a fee based on the number of tickets issued violated the intent of state law, a position affirmed by a statement by the governor.  Cardin's bill was not permitted to come to a vote in the House last year.

Last year's session also saw a speed camera repeal bill, sponsored by Senator Pipkin in the senate and Delegate Smigel in the house.  The repeal legislation was not permitted by committees in the house and senate to come to a vote.

Last session the House Environmental Matters committee rejected all ideas for speed camera reform legislation which the Maryland Drivers Alliance had supported when a coalition of organizations which profit from speed cameras opposed changes to the law.  Instead the committee leadership decreed that the only speed camera bill which would be passed was a "phony" reform bill sponsored by committee vice chairman James Malone.  Malone's bill was essentially written based on input from local governments which profit from speed cameras (such as Montgomery County), who spent taxpayer money lobbying against meaningful reform.  In our opinion  Malone's bill was written to answer the question "how do speed camera programs do a better job of public relations" without really changing the way they work.  After weeks of discussion and hearing on other legislation, Malone's bill was dumped in a steaming pile on the house floor at the very end of the 2013 legislative session, when it was too late for anyone to closely scrutinize its provisions, making it essentially a "take it or leave it" proposition.  Malone's bill did not clear the senate before the end of the session.

Whether passage of a meaningful speed camera reform legislation has a chance in the current legislature this year is questionable.  Speed Camera contractors, local governments which profit from cameras, and taxpayer funded lobbying groups such as the Maryland Association of Counties, have been lobbying hard to ensure that any bill which passes does not contain any real "teeth" and has built in loopholes to allow "business as usual" to continue.  Based on past experience the leadership in the House f Delegates appears to believe they can pass off a bill containing only 'cosmetic' changes as meaningful reform and thereby deceive the public into believing that the many serious problems with Maryland's local speed camera programs are fixed.

Last year, the legislature proved that they are not committed to making real changes to the way programs are run or the process by which citations are adjudicated which might really make Maryland's fatally flawed program less bad.  By rejecting meaningful reform legislation, the leadership of the General Assembly proved they cannot be trusted and that they are not committed to making a the system which is as fair as possible.  In doing so they have proven why the state's speed camera law should simply be repealed.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Baltimore City Agreement With Brekford Contains Secrecy Clause

It was recently reported that Baltimore City had reached an agreement with speed camera contractor Brekford Corporation $600,000 in taxpayer money to end their contract for Baltimore's currently shut down speed camera program.  Now, WBFF reports that the deal includes a confidentiality clause which forbids either party from discussing the reasons for canceling the contract and to keep all issues and analyses confidential.

WBFF published excerpts from the agreement:
"Neither Party will publicly disparage the other Party or the System," the document states"The Parties agree that all communications between the Parties relating and referring to, and resulting in, the settlement of this matter, and all documents exchanged during, and pursuant to, the settlement discussions between the Parties, constitute confidential information and shall not be disclosed to any third party whatsoever." 
"Likewise, all communications and/or documents referring or relating to, or reflecting, each Party's internal considerations, discussions, analyses, and/or evaluations of issues raised during the settlement discussions constitute confidential information and shall not be disclosed to any third party whatsoever."
This clause would appear to be intended to prevent the public, the press, or organizations like the Maryland Drivers Alliance from gaining access to any documents pertaining to whatever problems led the city to cancel their contract.

This is not the first time Baltimore has demonstrated a lack of transparency when it comes to speed cameras.  Earlier this year Baltimore City's speed camera task force was found to have violated the Open Meetings Act by holding a secret meeting at a Brekford facility where the press was excluded.  Representatives of the Maryland Drivers Alliance made a complaint to the state open meetings board in May, and the board issued a finding that the city had in fact violated the Act.  
"Neither Party will publicly disparage the other Party or the System," the document states. "The Parties agree that all communications between the Parties relating and referring to, and resulting in, the settlement of this matter, and all documents exchanged during, and pursuant to, the settlement discussions between the Parties, constitute confidential information and shall not be disclosed to any third party whatsoever." The document continues, "Likewise, all communications and/or documents referring or relating to, or reflecting, each Party's internal considerations, discussions, analyses, and/or evaluations of issues raised during the settlement discussions constitute confidential information and shall not be disclosed to any third party whatsoever."

Read More at: http://foxbaltimore.com/news/features/top-stories/stories/baltimore-city-deal-keeps-evaluation-speed-camera-issues-confidential-24166.shtml#.UrUJ0bQnUdV
Neither Party will publicly disparage the other Party or the System," the document states. "The Parties agree that all communications between the Parties relating and referring to, and resulting in, the settlement of this matter, and all documents exchanged during, and pursuant to, the settlement discussions between the Parties, constitute confidential information and shall not be disclosed to any third party whatsoever." The document continues, "Likewise, all communications and/or documents referring or relating to, or reflecting, each Party's internal considerations, discussions, analyses, and/or evaluations of issues raised during the settlement discussions constitute confidential information and shall not be disclosed to any third party whatsoever."

Read More at: http://foxbaltimore.com/news/features/top-stories/stories/baltimore-city-deal-keeps-evaluation-speed-camera-issues-confidential-24166.shtml#.UrUJ0bQnUdV
Neither Party will publicly disparage the other Party or the System," the document states. "The Parties agree that all communications between the Parties relating and referring to, and resulting in, the settlement of this matter, and all documents exchanged during, and pursuant to, the settlement discussions between the Parties, constitute confidential information and shall not be disclosed to any third party whatsoever." The document continues, "Likewise, all communications and/or documents referring or relating to, or reflecting, each Party's internal considerations, discussions, analyses, and/or evaluations of issues raised during the settlement discussions constitute confidential information and shall not be disclosed to any third party whatsoever."

Read More at: http://foxbaltimore.com/news/features/top-stories/stories/baltimore-city-deal-keeps-evaluation-speed-camera-issues-confidential-24166.shtml#.UrUJ0bQnUd
"Neither Party will publicly disparage the other Party or the System," the document states. "The Parties agree that all communications between the Parties relating and referring to, and resulting in, the settlement of this matter, and all documents exchanged during, and pursuant to, the settlement discussions between the Parties, constitute confidential information and shall not be disclosed to any third party whatsoever." The document continues, "Likewise, all communications and/or documents referring or relating to, or reflecting, each Party's internal considerations, discussions, analyses, and/or evaluations of issues raised during the settlement discussions constitute confidential information and shall not be disclosed to any third party whatsoever."

Read More at: http://foxbaltimore.com/news/features/top-stories/stories/baltimore-city-deal-keeps-evaluation-speed-camera-issues-confidential-24166.shtml#.UrUJ0bQnUdV
 "Neither Party will publicly disparage the other Party or the System," the document states. "The Parties agree that all communications between the Parties relating and referring to, and resulting in, the settlement of this matter, and all documents exchanged during, and pursuant to, the settlement discussions between the Parties, constitute confidential information and shall not be disclosed to any third party whatsoever."

Read More at: http://foxbaltimore.com/news/features/top-stories/stories/baltimore-city-deal-keeps-evaluation-speed-camera-issues-confidential-24166.shtml#.UrUJ0bQnUdV
"Neither Party will publicly disparage the other Party or the System," the document states. "The Parties agree that all communications between the Parties relating and referring to, and resulting in, the settlement of this matter, and all documents exchanged during, and pursuant to, the settlement discussions between the Parties, constitute confidential information and shall not be disclosed to any third party whatsoever." The document continues, "Likewise, all communications and/or documents referring or relating to, or reflecting, each Party's internal considerations, discussions, analyses, and/or evaluations of issues raised during the settlement discussions constitute confidential information and shall not be disclosed to any third party whatsoever."

Read More at: http://foxbaltimore.com/news/features/top-stories/stories/baltimore-city-deal-keeps-evaluation-speed-camera-issues-confidential-24166.shtml#.UrUJ0bQnUdV
"Neither Party will publicly disparage the other Party or the System," the document states. "The Parties agree that all communications between the Parties relating and referring to, and resulting in, the settlement of this matter, and all documents exchanged during, and pursuant to, the settlement discussions between the Parties, constitute confidential information and shall not be disclosed to any third party whatsoever."

Read More at: http://foxbaltimore.com/news/features/top-stories/stories/baltimore-city-deal-keeps-evaluation-speed-camera-issues-confidential-24166.shtml#.UrUJ0bQnUdV
"Neither Party will publicly disparage the other Party or the System," the document states. "The Parties agree that all communications between the Parties relating and referring to, and resulting in, the settlement of this matter, and all documents exchanged during, and pursuant to, the settlement discussions between the Parties, constitute confidential information and shall not be disclosed to any third party whatsoever."

Read More at: http://foxbaltimore.com/news/features/top-stories/stories/baltimore-city-deal-keeps-evaluation-speed-camera-issues-confidential-24166.shtml#.UrUJ0bQnUdV

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Montgomery County Repeats Red Light Camera "Warning Flashes" Lie

The Head of Montgomery County's automated traffic enforcement division, Captain Tom Didone, has stated to WTOP that the unexplained "flashes" from the county's red light camera are because the devices are issuing "warning flashes"

"Just because it flashes doesn't mean you're getting a photo." stated Didone to WTOP.

This is a repeat of a claim made by Montgomery County to the press last year.  many people have complained about the frequent flashes, arguing they distract driver and that they make people believe they are getting tickets when they are not.
Didone says the flash is a warning light to let the camera know to get ready and let the driver know the light is about to change and to slow down immediately.

"We don't believe it's a safety violation. It lets people know there is a camera there. There is an awareness factor. If the flash startles them and gets them to slow down and stop, that's a good thing," says Didone.
The problem is that there is no such thing as a red light camera which issues "warning flashes".  When a red light camera flashes, it is taking photos.  Period.  The flash has no purpose of warning the driver at all.  The "Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices" contains no such thing as a traffic control device which issues "warning flashes" at traffic lights.  And it would be stupid to have a device which does so.  What purpose would it serve to issue a driver a "warning" after it is too late for them to safely stop?

Red light cameras in Montgomery County record video starting about 3 seconds before the vehicle reaches the stop line.  Obviously the devices are recording video and taking photos before the violation takes place or you could not have a video.  The county would need to think the public is stupid not to realize this.  In addition, we obtained a copy of the technical specification for this model of red light camera last year, and it contains absolutely no mention at all of "warning flashes".

The real story behind these "warning flashes" is that last year the vendor for red light camera systems in Montgomery County and Rockville installed a new model which is far more sensitive, with the purpose of allowing them to issue tickets for "borderline violations" which the old cameras would not.

Last year the City of Rockville deployed this model of cameras so that they could begin ticketing for slow moving right turns on red, something which a study by the NHTSA has shows is not a significant cause of accidents.  As a result, the City of Rockville saw a VAST increase in the number of citations issued, and the profitability of their cameras.  Now the large majority of red light camera tickets in Rockville are NOT going to straight-through red light runners, but rather to people who made right turns and do not believe they ran a red light at all.  We still get LOTS of emails about this.  Montgomery County sets a somewhat higher threshold for issuing tickets than Rockville, but they use the same model camera and they still occasionally issue right turn tickets (but at an apparently higher speed threshold than Rockville).

So why did Montgomery County cook up this phoney "warning flash" story instead of simply admitting the truth straight up?  "Yes, people do get their photos taken by red light cameras all the time when no violation takes place.  You have no right to privacy in public.  We can take as many photos of non-violators as we wish so that we can examine them after the fact and look for possible reasons to issue citations."  Of course, the reason is because this conflicts with the county's narrative they use to reply to complaints that photo enforcement is a kind of "mass surveillance" by saying "If you don't run a red light/don't speed, you won't get your photo taken".  Obviously that is not always true.

And perhaps many think this is a trivial thing.  If citations don't get issued, then so what?  Well the reason you should care is that Montgomery County apparently can't give the public a straight answer about this for no better reason than they would prefer to tell the press a story which fits their narrative better.  If that is the case, then what else are they lying to the public and the press about?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Baltimore to Pay Speed Camera Company $600K To Go Away

Baltimore City plans to pay speed camera vendor Brekford Corporation $600,000 to end their contract for the city's speed camera program which has been completely shut down since April, according to a report by the Baltimore Sun.

Brekford agreed to accept $600,000 "to carry out this mutually-agreed termination, and to resolve any outstanding disputes related to the matter between the parties".  Brekford started the contract in January 2013.  The previous contractor, Xerox State and Local Solutions, lost the contract amid revelations that cameras had been systematically producing erroneous citations, including false speed readings.  The program was shut down again just three months later when hundreds of new erroneous citations were discovered under Brekford's watch.  Brekford had previously received a payment of $700,000 in August while the cameras were shut down.

"The mayor has said on several occasions that the speed camera program would not come back online until its accuracy and overall ability to function met the highest possible standards," stated the Mayor's spokeman Kevin Harris.  "Brekford expended significant resources to help create a system that performed at the highest standard, but ultimately it became clear that Baltimore needs to move in a different direction to ultimately build a system that uniquely fits our city."  The payment is expected to be approved by the board of estimates.

Brekford corp has recently found itself in deep financial trouble and reported a large loss in the last quarter.

The move places the future of the program in question.  According to the Baltimore Sun, Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke said the city should stop using speed cameras and instead station more traffic officers :
"Let's go with what we know: professionals standing there doing their job, working with the citizens to ensure safety, especially for our elderly and our children," Clarke said. "I think we've tried long and hard enough" with the cameras, she said, "and wasted an awful lot of money in the process."

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Alfa Convertible Gets Ticket for Toyota Hatchback

WTOP has reported on the case of a Virginia driver who received a DC speed camera ticket without visiting the city.  The driver from McClean, VA received a ticket dated October 30 for going 36mph in a 25mph zone with a fine of $100.  The ticket showed the license plate tag "ANDARE", which was the same as the tag on his red Alfa Romeo convertible.  The problem is the vehicle shown in the ticket was not his, instead it was a blue Toyota hatchback which bears no resemblance to the Alfa.

On closer inspection, the tag shown in the citation was apparently not a Virginia tag at all.  The DC Police were initially unhelpful.  WTOP wrote....
After MVA agreed the car in the speed camera ticket appeared to be a Maryland tag, a request was made to D.C. police to void the citation.
"Any questions regarding tickets issued should be directed to the Department of Motor Vehicle Services' Adjudication Services, not the Metropolitan Police Department," writes spokeswoman Gwen Crump.
"I got upset when I tried to adjudicate the ticket and the DMV told me it would take up to six months, when it's simply a case of black and white. I sent them a picture of my red Alfa Romeo convertible, a copy of my Virginia registration, and you sent them proof that this ticket should've gone to a Maryland driver, and they wouldn't do anything," says Merlis.
After WTOP got involved, and the motorist contacted the head of the District's speed camera program on their advice, the citation was voided.

Salisbury City Council president faces charges for driving on suspended license

From Delmarvanow news, covering Salisbury and the greater Wicomico County area:
City Council President Jake Day could face jail time after a traffic stop on the morning of his wedding day resulted in charges of driving on a suspended license and other traffic offenses, court records show.
 Click here for the entire article.

An editorial in the DelmarvaNow website stated
Day’s problem, of course, is the atmospherics of the situation. He’s been pulled over for speeding at least seven times since 2008 and has had his license suspended at least twice. This paints a portrait of a man who gives little heed to speed-limit signs and the safety of himself and other drivers. Anybody can get a speeding ticket, but far fewer people get them repeatedly or get to the point where a license suspension is at issue.
The Maryland Drivers Alliance contacted Mr. Day in October 2013 to request assistance in obtaining Salisbury's speed camera calibration certificates when the city mayor and city attorney failed to respond to  our Public Information Act request.  After initially promising to look into the delay, Mr. Day never did get back to us, in spite of the many voice mail messages that we left for him.  When we finally did obtain some calibration records from Salisbury months after our initial request, the documents indicated several significant lapses in calibrations.

News Coverage From Salisbury:
DelmarvaNow:
          Council President Day faces new driving charges
          Anti-speed camera activists escalate fight over automatic ticketing system
WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Montgomery County Council President Craig Rice Has Traffic Citation Problems

Montgomery County Council President Craig Rice appears to be having trouble keeping court dates for traffic citations, and also racked up over $1000 in unpaid tickets in Maryland and DC, according to online court records. 

Records from the Maryland Judicial Case Search show that Craig L. Rice, DOB 9/1972, of Coachmans Cir Germantown failed to appear at a district court trial date over a citation for "failure to obey properly place traffic control device instructions".  The court record shows a "FAILURE TO APPEAR SUSPENSION", though it is uncertain based on this whether a license suspension is actually in effect. 

This was first reported on the "Parents Coalition of Montgomery County" blog.

A report on WJLA indicated this was over an HOV lane violation.  Rice claimed to have paid the violation, although the district court records did not indicate payment.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Montgomery County Circuit Court: Innocence is a Defense

A Montgomery County Circuit Court judge ruled last week that “not being the driver” is a valid defense against a speed camera citation.  Basing his decision on careful analysis of Maryland law, the judge determined that a person named on a citation has no duty to identify the actual driver to exercise this defense. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Public and Critics Banned from MaCo Speed Camera Meeting

The public, including  a member of the Maryland Drivers Alliance, was banned from attending a speed camera symposium in Bowie Maryland today.

The event, which we had discussed in a previous posting, was sponsored by The Maryland Association of Counties(MaCo) and the Maryland Municipal League (MML), both of which are funded in large part by taxpayer dollars.  The heads of the speed camera programs for Montgomery and Prince George's County, Captain Tom Didone and Major Liberati, were leading the event.  AAA (an insurance company which helped to give Maryland speed cameras in the first place) also co-sponsored the event.

The agenda was supposed to include "best practices" for speed camera programs and "vendor contracts", but would also include "Current law and Proposed Changes in 2014".  In the wake of the revelations of systematic errors in Baltimore City's speed camera program which brought calls for reform or repeal of the state's speed camera law,

MaCo and the MML united with Montgomery County and Prince Georges to oppose all meaningful speed camera reforms during the last legislative session in Annapolis.  Instead they together created a "paper tiger" bill designed to lead the public to believe the problems had been solved, but which really only answered the question "How do we do a better job of public relations?".  (that "paper tiger" would eventually become the so called "speed camera reform act of 2014")
 
Didone, Liberati, MaCo, and the MML united against motorists in a legislative committee, at taxpayer expense
The Maryland Drivers Alliance had been specifically invited to attend the symposium by John Townsend of AAA.  However when a Maryland Drivers Alliance member, Gene Simmers, attempted to sign up for the symposium Captain Tom Didone informed him that he would not be permitted to enter.
"Capt. Didone called me back and informed me that I was denied permission to attend tomorrow's meeting in Bowie." wrote Simmers "He mentioned that he especially didn't want anyone from our group to attend since Ron is so anti-speed camera. I asked him who would be attending and he said county employees. I then asked him if he was aware of the Maryland Openings Act and he said no."

We complained to Townsend of AAA, as we had been previously advised that we could attend.  "Gene, at Ron’s request," [referring to the MDA chairman] "and on your behalf, we had asked for you and members of the alliance  to be able to attend." wrote Townsend.

"I have [asked] the major sponsors to reconsider their position.   I think they should" wrote Townsend.  He then advised Mr Simmers to "Make your appeal in person."

The next day Mr Simmers appeared at the Symposium in Bowie as AAA had suggested... and was barred from entering by police and by Captain Tom Didone.
"I showed up at 9:10 am and introduced myself at the check in desk. As I was speaking, a Mont. County police officer pushed his way through the crowd and proclaimed " I will handle this". A few minutes went by and Captian Didione showed up. He began to repeat that he had told me no yesterday . I showed him the e-mail from Townsend and that was the only reason I drove from Harford County to attend. He then started to become a little rough and said he had told me 3 times the reasons why I could not not attend. I told him I didn't like any of his 3 answers.  He repeated that the reason that I could not attend was because of pending legal action between our group and a community at the symposium. I told him that" anyone who has watched a repeat of any Law and Order show would know that pending legal would never be discussed by police officers at a public meeting. Townsend showed up and literally froze when I asked for his opinion. Regina Averella of AAA was standing next to me and said" I don't get in the middle with this". Capt Didone also said my presence in the room would be intimidating to some in attendance. I told him that I didn't know anyone in the room and no one would know who I was, he just looked down and left for impromptu meetings. At least 5 members of AAA and 3 police officers were gathered around me.
 

When the symposium started  the police officer who pushed his way to the table remained outside in the hallway at the table. He stayed at the table the ENTIRE time from 9:15 until 12:00 when lunch started . He was joined by another officer  as well. This guy never attended one minute of the symposium . I sincerely doubt if his task was to guard a registration desk that collected no money all day. I had a babysitter I believe."
Media presence at the symposium was also severely restricted.  One reporter from a local radio station was permitted to attend a portion of the symposium, because he had been invited to provide a presentation to speed camera programs about "How to Conduct an Effective Media Campaign".  However even that reporter was forced to leave at 1:00 as soon as his presentation was over.

MaCo and the various speed camera programs of the state had an opportunity to demonstrate that they were transparent and that they were open to hearing input and criticism from the driving public.  Instead what they decided to prove was that they prefer to skulk around in dark corners and concoct secret legislative schemes in private meetings, all funded by taxpayer dollars.  They have proven that speed camera programs are basically just like vampires.... unable to survive in the light of day.

*** SHAME!!!! ***

Additional Coverage:
WBFF: Multi County Symposium on Speed Cameras 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Camera Firms Continue Lobbying

The state legislature may not be in session for the moment, but speed camera firms continue spending on lobbying activities even in the off season.

Speed Camera company Xerox Corporation has spent the largest amount, reporting a total of $176,000 on lobbying in the one year period ending November 2013 according to documents on the State Ethics Commission website.

Xerox paid the firm Alexander & Cleaver fees totaling $58,000 in the six month period since May, even though the legislature was out of session.  This brought the total amount which Xerox paid the lobbying firm to $114,000 for the one year period.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Salisbury Records Show Calibration Lapses

The Maryland Drivers Alliance had been trying for months to obtain copies of annual calibration certificates and daily setup logs from Salisbury, after the city claimed that all records were in the hands of their contractor.  Now, the Washington Times reports that they have obtained some of the same records we had been seeking, and sure enough the documents do have some problems.

Monday, November 25, 2013

WTOP News: Speed camera accuracy questioned in Morningside, Maryland

MORNINGSIDE, Md. - A WTOP Ticketbuster investigation has uncovered serious questions about the accuracy of a speed camera on Suitland Road in Morningside, Md

For the entire story, see:

http://www.wtop.com/1319/3512254/Speed-camera-glitch-captured-on-videos

From the story:
Todd Pounds, Morningside's town attorney, declined to be interviewed for this story, although he did speak to WTOP on the phone and email. He tells WTOP that the cameras are accurate and comply with Maryland law, but wouldn't comment on the videos themselves. WTOP asked Pounds to produce annual calibration and daily self- test records for the Suitland Road camera to substantiate his claims, but he refused to do so.
 
 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

MaCo Hosts Speed Camera Love Fest

The Maryland Association of Counties (MaCo) will be holding a speed camera symposium on December 4th, from 9:30 AM to 3:30 PM at the Kenhill Center (Old Bowie City Hall: 2614 Kenhill Drive, Bowie, Maryland, 20715).

The agenda for this meeting will include Requirements for a Speed Camera Program, Partnerships, Vendor Contracts, Policies and Procedures, program results, Current Law, and Proposed Changes in 2014.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Speed Camera Company Misses SEC Filing Deadine

Speed Camera Contractor Brekford Corp announced on November 14th that they would not meet the deadline for filing their Q-10 quarterly results report with the SEC.

The notification of late filing form (FORM 12b-25stated:
The Registrant anticipates that its consolidated statements of operations for the three- and nine-month periods ended September 30, 2013 to be included in the Quarter Report will reflect: (i) a net loss of approximately $568,492 for the three months ended September 30, 2013, compared to a net loss of approximately $50,948 for the corresponding period of 2012; (ii) a net loss of approximately $968,960 for the nine months ended September 30, 2013, compared to net income of approximately $198,895 for the corresponding period of 2012; and (iii) basic and diluted net loss per common share of $0.01 and $0.02 for the three and nine months ended September 30, 2013, compared to basic and diluted earnings per common share of $0.00 and $0.00 for the corresponding periods of 2012.  The reduction in net income for the 2013 periods when compared to the 2012 periods resulted primarily from increased expenses related to salaries, benefit programs and associated support costs for the expansion of ATSE without corresponding increases in revenue as certain program implementations were delayed.  Increased depreciation expense associated with newly installed technology infrastructure and camera equipment also contributed to the loss.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Baltimore City Issued 1.5Million Camera Tickets As Accident Rates Rose

A report by the Baltimore Sun showed that Baltimore City experienced an almost 5% increase in traffic accidents from 2009 to 2012. In that four year time period Baltimore City put approximately 50 speed cameras online and issued 1.5 million speed camera tickets.

Baltimore's first speed cameras went online in November of 2009. However most of the city's cameras did not go online until months, and 2010 was the first full year with speed cameras.

The city defended the program's results by asserting that traffic accidents dropped at six intersections where cameras were used.  That data came from only a small fraction of the city's cameras, and was compiled in late 2012 when the city's program was coming under increasing fire over erroneous citations and many other complaints.  No data from 2012 was provided.  It is unclear why "intersections" were the basis of the city's collision analysis when the cameras involved were speed cameras rather than red light cameras and thus are not necessarily enforcing just in "intersections".

Baltimore's program was shut down in early 2013 after hundreds of erroneous citations were sent out to innocent drivers.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Montgomery County Council Examines Converting Car Lanes To Bus Routes

The Montgomery County council has been working on a proposal to "repurpose" lanes away from cars to support a new $3billion 'rapid transit' bus system.

Is Parking on a Bike Path Legal?

While it is doubtful that parking on a bike path would be allowed for the peasant folk, Montgomery County's speed camera maintenance vans are apparently "special".

This photo was taken of a camera located on Travillah road just before 9am on 11/11//2013. ( The photographer was parked and was not obstructing any traffic at the time). Since this vehicle does not have "local government" plates, it would not appear to be an actual government registered "law enforcement vehicle".

After this photo was taken, this camera which only photographs speeding cars proceeded to "flash" the photographer as soon as he pulled back onto the road, while he was still traveling at least 5mph below the posted speed limit.

The Maryland Drivers Alliance would love to see any photos our readers might acquire of speed camera vans "being special".  Just use Our Contact Form to reach us.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

WUSA9 Investigations: Speedcam loophole & unpublished Montgomery Co. camera sites

WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- A WUSA9 investigation casts new doubt on Montgomery County's speed camera program, a system that racks up millions in revenue, because there is no evidence some sites were ever published.

Entire article and video at:

http://www.wusa9.com/news/article/281439/158/WUSA9-Probe-Montgomery-Co-speed-cams-legal

Friday, November 8, 2013

Court Rejects Optotraffic Lawsuit in Ohio

Maryland based speed camera company Optotraffic continues running into difficulties expanding their business into other states, as an article in TheNewspaper.com reports that a court in Ohio has rejected a complaint filed by the speed camera company against a local government.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

MDA Exclusive: Brekford representative to travel to Salisbury tomorrow to hand over documents

A source at Salisbury's speed camera vendor, Brekford Corporation, has informed the MDA that a Brekford representative will be meeting with Col. Barclay on Friday, November 8, to deliver "a very large packet" of speed camera calibration certificates.   Col. Barclay manages Salisbury's speed camera program. 

State law requires that the calibration certificates be maintained in the files of each jurisdiction that operates speed cameras. 

The MDA requested calibration certificates from Salisbury five months ago, but the city did not fulfill the request.  Another request was submitted two months ago.  The city has continued to disregard the requests for calibration certificates even after numerous calls and emails to Mayor James Ireton, Council President Jacob Day, the city clerk, City Attorney Mark Tilghman and other city officials.

The Brekford representative also stated that Salisbury will be posting the calibration certificates on the city's website on November 8.



Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Baltimore City Still Uncertain of Camera Restart Date Due to Accuracy Concerns

The Baltimore Sun reports that Baltimore City is still unable to give a restart date for its speed and red light camera programs, which were shut down six months ago over reports of systematic erroneous citations.
"If we don't have people that can do the job correctly, then we have to find someone who can," said City Councilman Brandon Scott. "This is something that needs to be handled posthaste. It's bad business for us to let the issue hang out there this long." 
Tests have shown that the system sometimes produces inaccurate speed readings, makes address errors and provides incorrect information on how to pay a citation, city officials said. 
"We want to make sure when they go back online, they go back online with accuracy, efficiency and consistency," Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said Wednesday. "The current vendor is not there yet."

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Baltimore County Calibrations Lapsed

The Baltimore Sun reports that twelve Baltimore County Speed cameras  were secretly shut down in February-March of this year, and more than 1467 citations voided, after the annual calibrations for the devices were allowed to lapse by speed camera contractor Xerox Corp.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Gansler Comes Clean on Speed Camera Ticket

Attorney General Doug Gansler has admitted that a state vehicle issued to him had received a speed camera citation from the District of Columbia.  The Washington Post recently reported on inappropriate demands which state police alleged that Gansler had made to drivers assigned to transport him.  Gansler denied a report that he had received and refused to pay a speeding ticket he got in the mail stating “There’s a public record to show I never got a speeding ticket, so we know that’s not true.

The Washington Post now reports that Gansler has acknowledged that the Attorney General's Office was issued a ticket by the District of Columbia for a vehicle assigned to him.  Maryland state troopers had previously reported that the citation was issued "while the Attorney General was operating the vehicle in DC".  The citation, issued in June of 2012, was issued for traveling 21-25mph over the speed limit in a 30mph zone at the 2300 block of Porter Street NW.  The fine for the citation had been doubled because it was overdue.  Gansler says he has now paid the citation which he had "inadvertently not paid", without determining who was driving, according to the Post.

Monday, October 21, 2013

After Three Years, Brentwood Records Request Still Unresolved

Two Maryland Public Information Act requests we filed with the Town of Brentwood continue to be unresolved more than three years after the first request was sent to the town.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

SHA Deploys New Camera in Frederick County

The Maryland State Highway Administration has announced that a new speed camera will be deployed in a workzone on Route 340/US 15 in Frederick County.  The location is between I-70 and Zion Road.  Tickets will begin going out on November 12.

The new mobile speed camera site, which is all about safety and has nothing to do with revenue, will be located in workzone where the highway speed limit has been temporarily reduced from 65mph to 55mph.  Citations may be issued 24/7 and "regardless of whether workers are present", according to the wording of state law.

The SHA deploys speed cameras in cooperation with the Maryland State Police under a contract with Xerox State and Local Solutions (formerly known as ACS State and Local Solutions).  Xerox is the same contractor who formerly ran Baltimore City's program before they lost the contract and the program was shut down due to revelations of systematic errors, errors which occurred even though the Baltimore devices passed all calibration tests.  To prove accuracy, the SHA now publishes annual calibration certificates online... certificates issued by the same "independent calibration lab" (MRA Digital) which "certified" the cameras which produced the errors in Baltimore.  However the SHA and Xerox need not worry about speed measurement errors being proven in the SafeZones program using the same method that erroneous speed readings were proven by us and by the Baltimore Sun, since unlike Baltimore City the SHA rounds off timestamps on citations to the nearest second and Xerox has refused requests to provide the time intervals for lidar cameras, even in response to a subpoena.  The SHA advocated against a change in the law which would have made precise timestamps mandatory in order to detect errors, a change which was successfully blocked with the assistance of heavy lobbying by Montgomery County and groups like the Maryland Association of Counties.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Another Optotraffic Client Faces Lawsuit

Maryland based speed camera company Optotraffic is running into more difficulties expanding their business into other states, as the city of Lucas Ohio is being sued over the legality of their camera program which Optotraffic runs, according to the Mansfield News Journal.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Washington Post Article: MD Trooper Memos Depict AG Gansler as "Reckless Passenger"

The Washington Post has published a series of memos written by state troopers assigned to Attorney General Doug Gansler which document a series of safety related complaints by the police.

Excerpts from the Washington Post Article:
"Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler regularly ordered state troopers assigned to drive him to turn on the lights and sirens on the way to routine appointments, directing them to speed, run red lights and bypass traffic jams by using the shoulder, according to written accounts by the Maryland State Police.
When troopers refused to activate the emergency equipment, Gansler, now a Democratic candidate for governor, often flipped the switches himself, according to the police accounts. And on occasion, he became so impatient that he insisted on driving, directing the trooper to the passenger’s seat. Gansler once ran four red lights with sirens blaring, a trooper wrote. Another account said he “brags” about driving the vehicle unaccompanied on weekends with the sirens on.
“This extremely irresponsible behavior is non-stop and occurs on a daily basis,” Lt. Charles Ardolini, commander of the state police executive protection section, wrote in a December 2011 memo that said the problem had existed for five years. “Attorney General Gansler has consistently acted in a way that disregards public safety, our Troopers safety and even the law.”
In the Dec. 16, 2011, memo, Ardolini said he realized how serious the problem had become that March after he saw Gansler’s SUV driving “Code 1” — speeding with lights and sirens — on Interstate 97.”
[...]
...a trooper wrote that he was “directed by the Attorney General that he was going to drive himself to the first event and for me to sit in the passenger seat.”
“While riding in the passenger seat,” he wrote, “I observed the Attorney General exceeding the speed limit, using his lights and siren to move people out of the way, hit the shoulder with his lights, and turn his lights and sirens on to go through four red lights.”
The same trooper reported that Gansler had “ordered and asked me on several occasions to run the shoulder while activating my lights and sirens. The Attorney General has also informed me that ‘Troopers do not sit in traffic.’ While driving him he constantly informs me that Troopers drive as fast as possible to events. 
In the documents obtained by The Post, the troopers also cite several things allegedly said by Gansler that they found troubling. Among them: “Stop signs are optional” and “I don’t care how fast we drive. The faster the better.” 
Ardolini’s memo said Gansler insisted on driving with lights and sirens to routine events such as “breakfast, meetings and his children’s sporting events.” 
[...]
The documents provided to The Post also include references to a few speeding tickets that involved Gansler’s vehicle when troopers said they were not driving it.
An e-mail written by Ardolini in November 2012 said a trooper told him about a speeding ticket Gansler received that remained unpaid. “He threw it away and said he was not paying it,” Ardolini wrote.
Wheelock said Gansler has no recollection of receiving any speeding tickets while driving the state-owned SUV.
A spokesperson for Attorney General Dough Gansler, Bob Wheelock, denies the reports.  "Wheelock said it’s common for troopers to drive faster than the speed limit when traveling with elected officials, and he questioned the motives of Ardolini," the Post reported.

“Doug was feeling like he was being given second-tier or too recently trained troopers," The Post Quoted Bob Wheellock as saying, "They were very inexperienced, and several of them didn’t know the area well. That was a source of irritation to Doug.”   A spokesperson for the Maryland State Police, Greg Shipley, was reported by the Post as saying that the executive protection section has no "second-tier" troopers.

Read the complete article in the Washington Post
Read State Trooper memos published by the Post


The Maryland Attorney General is the chief legal officer for the state, and heads the Office of Attorney General(OAG) which advises state agencies and the legislature on law.  During Gansler's term as Attorney General, the OAG has intervened in traffic enforcement issues in several recent instances by writing legal opinions supporting interpretations of the law convenient for local governments and opposing the interests of Motorist rights.  Among the opinions issued under Gansler's watch was a "get out of jail free card" which condoned Montgomery County's contingent fee speed camera contract.  This set a precedent for most speed camera contractors across the entire state to be paid based on the number of tickets issued, despite the fact that even Governor O'Malley has said this practice violates the intent of current law.  The Office For Attorney General also issued an opinion that citizens could not petition for referendums on speed cameras at the county level, unless this is a specific local law permits it. This is one of the reasons that only one local jurisdiction in the state has ever put speed cameras to a referendum.  The OAG also wrote an opinion which went against the decision of a circuit court judge who dismissed a speed camera citation, in a case which had appeared in the press.

While the OAG acted in support of local governments on these issues, when the editor of this website attempted to bring violations of the law BY speed camera programs to the attention of the OAG (including alleged violations of the Public Information Act by local governments and an instance of alleged forgery by local government officials) the OAG replied in each instance that they do not get involved in local government matters.

Doug Gansler is currently running for governor of Maryland.  Gansler denied charges of 'back seat driving' and responded that the complaints are a political attack by supporters of one of his opponents in the upcoming democratic primary.  “That story was based on one of the O’Malley-Brown henchmen. The guy actually works in the governor’s mansion” stated Gansler.  A statement by the Maryland State Police objected to troopers being referred to has "henchmen" and to the assertion that they engage in politically motivated actions , according to another article in the Post.


Additional Coverage:
WBAL: Troopers Complain About Gansler's "Backseat Driving"
NBC: Gansler Responds to 'Irresponsible Behavior' Allegations
Baltimore Sun: Gansler responds to claims he ordered troopers to drive in unsafe manner
Washington Post: Maryland state police rebuke Gansler for calling veteran trooper a ‘henchman’

Thursday, October 10, 2013

DC Council Examines Ticket Adjudication Process

WTOP reports that the DC council is considering a bill which would alter the ticket adjudication process.  The Traffic Adjudication Amendment Act of 2013 would require the DMV to rule on appeals within 6 months or automatically dismiss citations, and also permit drivers to reopen cases "if there's new evidence that clearly demonstrates their innocence."
Read Text of Bill
Many drivers think these measures will fix what they call a broken system. 
"It's their position that they're right. We don't really have a lot we can say," said Jocelyn Johnson, who testified at the hearing before the council's Committee on Transportation and the Environment. "No matter what you tell them, you have to go through so many hoops. It goes above and beyond because they don't have a process to give you the benefit of anything."

That sentiment has been echoed many times to WTOP since the Ticketbuster series launched earlier this year. Many drivers are upset with the DMV over what they see as red tape and a lack of customer service. Some feel the department's hearing examiners are predisposed to finding ways to rule against drivers on challenged tickets.

DMV Director Lucinda Babers disagreed with that assessment when asked about whether the process is fair.

"Absolutely I believe so," Babers said. "I review hundreds of these cases. If I believed they weren't, then I'd do something about it if they have evidence to support it."
WTOP reports that DC writes 1.8-2million tickets for various types of violations every year.  For parking and speed camera tickets which are appealed the city is not required to meet the standard of "beyond reasonable doubt", but only "preponderance of evidence" or "clear and convincing evidence" respectively, which is a far lower standard in legal terms.  WTOP found several cases where motorists had been fined for violations issued to a license plate which they had surrendered years earlier, and reported that they frequently hear complaints of "poor customer service" with respect to DC tickets. 

The Transportation and Environment committee, chaired by Councilwoman Mary Cheh, must now review the bill's language and decide whether to change, approve or kill it.

Read complete story on WTOP

Sunday, October 6, 2013

New Cell Phone Law in Effect

Maryland drivers are reminded that the state law banning the use of hand held cell phones has recently been modified to make it a primary offense, which means motorists can be stopped at any time for using a hand-held cell phone.  Maryland had a cell phone ban on the book for several years but police were not permitted to stop a motorist solely for this reason until the legislature amended the law this year.  Police have begun enforcing the new law, which now carries a $75 fine for the first offense and higher fines for second and third offenses.

Police officers are specifically exempted from Maryland's cell phone law.
Read Text of Cell Phone Legislation.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

MDA obtains speed camera proposals from Salisbury

After more than a month of stonewalling by Mayor James Ireton of Salisbury, the Maryland Drivers Alliance has obtained a copy of the Brekford speed camera contract from an entirely different source who respects the Maryland Public Information Act.   In addition, we obtained speed camera proposals that were submitted to Salisbury by several other vendors.

The proposals provide a great deal of information about the speed camera systems that might prove useful in defending speed camera citations.

The bid comparison sheet (speed camera ranking matrix), the contract, and the proposals can be viewed by clicking on the links below.

Salisbury Speed Camera Ranking Matrix

Brekford Speed Camera contract

Brekford Speed Camera proposal (accepted by Salisbury)

Redspeed speed camera proposal

Redflex speed camera proposal

Gatso speed camera proposal

Optotraffic speed camera proposal Part 1 of 2

Optotraffic speed camera proposal Part 2 of 2



Thursday, September 12, 2013

Salisbury planning to use speed camera revenue to purchase Tasers

Documents obtained by the Maryland Drivers Alliance reveal that the City of Salisbury is planning to use speed camera revenue to pay for Taser guns.

At present, Salisbury police officers do not carry Taser guns.

The claimed goal of the speed cameras program is to improve traffic safety.  The City of Salisbury has not explained how using speed camera revenue to equip police officers with Taser guns will improve traffic safety.



Seeking Salisbury/Morningside Citations

We are looking for people who have "active" (ie unpaid) speed camera citations from either the City of Salisbury or the Town of Morningside.  Please contact us by email if you have a citation from either jurisdiction which is not yet paid.

Salisbury Resident Complains of Camera Ticket "Spikes"

A Wicomico County resident wrote a letter to the editor at Delmarvanow.com, complaining about the reliability of cameras used in the county:
"In August 2012, I had problems with Pemberton Drive cameras, as many other also did. I called the Sheriff’s Office many times, and was told the cameras were checked daily and are accurate. I told them I use cruise control set below 35 mph.
Again, no satisfaction. Then on Oct. 4, 2012, The Daily Times reported that Sheriff Mike Lewis and Chief Deputy Gary Baker had concerns about a spike in citations the week of Aug. 20-24, 2012; 175 citations were issued. They had decided to issue refunds for those days.
How about Sept. 3-7, 2012, when 110 citations were issued, and Sept. 10-14, 2012, when 172 citations were issued?
I have lived off Pemberton Drive almost 50 years with no problems. Then, during three spike periods, I receive four citations."
 
 Marion F. Parsons Jr., Salisbury

Read the complete letter to the editor at DelmarvaNow.com.

A reference to the refunds and Wicomico County's 2012 alleged spike in violations can be found in this article at www.ocean-city.com:
Last November Sheriff Mike Lewis reported to the council a sudden rush of violations caused his office to question if one camera might have been malfunctioning.
The peak occurred during the week of Aug. 20-24 near Pemberton Elementary School. Though the camera was checked and no obvious problems were discovered, the Sheriff’s Office made the decision to refund all citations issued by that camera for the week the peak occurred just to eliminate all doubt. 
[...]
Councilman Joe Holloway stated Red Speed has captured drivers going 70 to 80 mph in neighborhoods that following a review Sheriff Mike Lewis and County Attorney Edgar Baker have found to be impossible to drive that fast in those areas.
“That is what’s wrong with this system, it is flawed, and I am sorry that I voted for it,” Joe Holloway said.

If you get a bogus ticket SAY SOMETHING.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Morningside Deployed Cameras Despite County Denial

Documents provided to the Maryland Drivers Alliance show that The Town of Morningside deployed speed cameras on a road maintained by Prince George's County without having received authorization from the county, and despite the county's explicit denial of permission for the town to do so.

The town wrote Prince George's County a letter on July 25, stating that they had created new school zones for the purpose of deploying speed cameras, including in locations on county roads, and that they were "notifying" the county of their intent to deploy the cameras on county roads.

The county responded with a letter dated Sept 23, 2011:
"I am in receipt of your July 25, 2011 letter in which you requested permission to install speed monitoring devices on Suitland Road between Allentown Road and Suitland Parkway." wrote Dr Haitham Hijaz, Director of Prince George's County DPWT "We certainly applaud the Town of Morningside's concern for pedestrian and bicycle safety; however permission to install the speed monitoring devices along this roadway cannot be approved.  Prince George's County is in the process of implementing our County-wide Automated Speed Enforcement Program, which includes certified school zones sites located on County-maintained arterial and collector roadways. As such, Suitland Road is an identified site and is included in the County's Program for placement of speed monitoring systems. "

The county then went on to describe the requirements which the town should follow, such as performing a traffic study, if it nevertheless wished to try to obtain a permit to deploy cameras on a county road.

On October 15, Morningside Police Chief Mills (who is no longer with the department) wrote a defiant reply.  Mills claimed the county did not respond to their request within 60 days, and that the county did not show any statutory basis for denying the request. The letter stated that the town had already contracted with Brekford, a company which Morningside claims has "previously received acceptance by the State Highway Administration for it's speed monitoring systems" (The SHA does not certify speed cameras nor does it use speed cameras provided by Brekford.)

Morningside currently deploys speed cameras on Suitland road, a county road, despite never having received any formal authorization from the town.  It is unclear whether the town even has authority to designate a school zone on a county road which does not directly border the school, or to place the required signs without the county DPWT's consent.

If cameras are deployed by the county, rather than by a town government, then all revenues would go to the county treasury rather than the municipality. In 2010 the legislature wrote a specific provision into the law establishing a procedure by which Prince George's County, and only Prince George's County, would determine whether the county or the municipality had jurisdiction to deploy cameras in a particular location.

Morningside and Brekford Corp collected a total of $612,647 worth of speed camera fines between July 1 2011 and June 30 2012, compared to total revenues of $2.2million from all sources, according to records from the comptroller's office (the town's SMS-1 form was dated March 25, 2013, despite a statement on the comptroller's website that the form "is due on the 30th day of September following the fiscal year in which the Speed Monitoring Fines were collected"). The town budgeted in 2012 to use camera revenue to replace falling property tax revenues, and one councilwoman even boasted during her campaign that "I love the speed cameras [installed last year] and the great opportunities their revenue provide to do things for the community.

The Maryland Drivers Alliance has been closely examining the town's speed camera program after they failed to respond to a Maryland Public Information Act request for speed camera calibration records within the 30 day time period required by state law.  When the town eventually responded, they denied the request for calibration records.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

First DC Stop Sign Camera Goes Up

DC has now deployed their first stop sign camera.  The device, designed to ticket people who make "california rolls" has been deployed  at the corner of Kansas Avenue and Buchanan Street NW.

Stop Sign Cameras have been in use in some California jurisdictions for some time.  The seven stop sign cameras located in one Santa Monica Mountain park issued $2.8million worth of tickets in FY10.  Where they have been used, they have been criticized because those jurisdictions were ticketing vehicles that stopped 'a foot over the white line' or 'slowly rolled through' stop signs, leaving it clear this would be the use of the devices.  The group 'Safer Streets LA' wrote about the issuance of $175 tickets for violations like this one:


They also wrote about the placement of a stop sign camera on a 'crosswalk to nowhere'.

DC Police plan to add a total of 132 new cameras of various sorts, a move which will roughly double the number of traffic enforcement camera in effect.  DC recently deployed "oversized vehicle" cameras aimed at fining trucks for driving on residential roads and is reportedly considering cameras to catch people who "block the box" as part of their continuing continuing efforts to charge admission to the nation's capital, er I mean "to improve safety".

Saturday, August 24, 2013

College Park Agrees To Move Speed Trap Camera

According to a report on WTOP, the City of College Park has agreed to move a speed camera which motorists have complained is located immediately within a "transition zone".  The camera, currently located at 3300 Metzerott became the subject of a WTOP Ticketbuster investigation after complaints that it was located so close to the end of a 30mph speed limit zone that motorists were facing a 40mph sign, a sign which would even appear within some of the speeding citation.

"Recently the city was notified that some drivers may be confused about the speed limit on Metzerott Road at the location of the westbound speed camera. This is the first time in three years of operation of this camera that the city has been made aware of this concern." wrote City Manager Joseph Nagro in a statement to WTOP News, "While the placement of the camera is legal, the city wishes to avoid any possible confusion about the speed limit in this area. As a result of an evaluation of alternative sites, the city intends to move the westbound camera to a location farther east, as determined by the traffic engineers"

The decision to move the camera is a significant change of tone from the city.  The camera location had been previously criticized by our website, due to inconsistencies between the current signage and the signage shown on city's permit application, which we had obtained in early 2011 after receiving complaints from motorists (the city's position is that there was no change to speed limits in this location).  The Diamondback reported in 2010 how the city council had received complaints about the location being a "speed trap", which had issued over 8,600 citations in less than its first month of operation.  AAA held a press conference at the location in 2011 complaining that it did not meet standards for camera placement.   WTOP investigated the location this year, and officials from some other jurisdictions agreed that the location of this camera would not have been considered appropriate under their rules.

College Park has stated they still consider the original camera placement to have been legal and it is not anticipated that refunds will be made for citations issued at the location.

Read Report on WTOP

Friday, August 23, 2013

Salisbury Resident Complains About Camera Accuracy

A Salisbury resident wrote a letter to the editor appearing on the DelmarvaNow.com website.
Yes, there are others who were not traveling at the rate of speed the summons said they were. I was also sent a notice from a camera and picture that said my car was going 52 mph in a 35 mph zone. 
I am 76 years old and don’t go 52 mph anywhere. Now, what speed was I going? I don’t know because it was a while after the day I was taking my 88-year-old husband to the doctor, and who remembers that?  
But I am sure it was not 52 mph. I paid the fine because I knew I could not prove my actual speed. There should be a way to be certain those cameras are calibrated regularly.
The Maryland Drivers Alliance has been tracking Salisbury's program closely in recent weeks.  The Maryland Drivers Alliance chairman had filed a Public Information Act Request for annual calibration certificates and a small number of 'daily setup' logs from the city.  Salisbury responded stating that they had no such records on file.  Their contractor, Brekford Corp, then demanded a $535 tribute be paid to the speed camera company in order to see the documents.  Another motorist requested similar records, and the city initially denied his request as well.  The city eventually provided only one of the four setup logs that motorist requested, with an email from the city stating that the other three logs did not appear to exist.

During the last session State lawmakers rejected proposed legislation which would have provided "a way to be certain" that cameras were accurate, in the form of requiring citations to provide enough information to verify speed.  The amendment was killed primarily at the insistence of Montgomery County, the Maryland Association of Counties, and the Maryland Department of Transportation, who prefer the current situation where the government agencies and speed camera contractors which profit from speed cameras can maintain a monopoly on evidence which could prove errors.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Metzerott Road Camera Under Fire

A motorist is questioning the placement of a speed camera on Metzerott Road in College Park, according to a story on WTOP.  The camera is enforcing a 30mph speed limit in both directions.  However in the westbound direction, the camera is located so close to the end of the 30mph zone that a 40mph sign is actually shown in the citation images.

WTOP reported that two Prince George's county police officers said such a camera would not have been placed in such a location , however the officers requested anonymity.  "It's very important to have your speed camera locations to be perceived as being fair. Having a camera within view of a sign where the speed limited increases may be technically legal, but it is not perceived as being fair. I can understand why some drivers would be upset," says one officer.  "I would agree that this camera being less than 150 feet from the 40 mph speed limit sign is unfair and probably not good practice," says the other officer.  

College Park officials told Fox 5 news that they 'have gotten very few complaints about the speed camera".   But in fact this very location came under substantial public fire in 2011 for much the same reason.  These complaints had been reported in 2011 in the Washington Post, on WJLA, and in The Sentinel.  The Diamondback reported in 2010 how motorists were complaining about being 'caught by surprise' at this location, that one councilwoman had received "several complaints from her constituents", and that 8,000 motorists were ticketed in the first 22 days this camera had been in operation. But College Park itself has "gotten very few complaints".  Right.  I suppose the fact that there's no official place to register a complaint and ensure it will be "put on record" makes it easy to make such a claim. However several drivers had complained to our website about this specific location in 2010 and 2011.  When we obtained the city's permit request for this location, we discovered that the current speed limit boundaries were different than those shown on the permit application, which was also supported by a traffic survey provided by the city. College Park says that no speed limits were changed at this location.  

The WTOP TicketBuster story includes a video showing how short the distance between the camera and sign really is.