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.

Xerox corporation reported to the Baltimore county government in February that it had failed to re-certify the twelve devices prior to the expiration of their calibration certificates, which are required by law every year.  The county quietly took the devices offline so they could be re calibrated, and no announcement was made of this certification lapse at the time it took place.  The devices were put back online in March.

At the time this reported lapse took place, the state legislature had been considering changes to the state's speed camera law which would have set much more stringent standards for cameras, including requiring a means to verify vehicle speed after the fact from citation images.  The legislature rejected the proposed changes, partially on the word of an organization which lobbies on behalf of the counties which profit from speed cameras (The Maryland Association of Counties or MACO) that stricter standards were not needed because speed cameras are calibrated annually.

Had news of a calibration laps become public at that time, it would likely have worked against MaCo and Xerox's arguments to the legislature that stricter standards were not required.

By pure coincidence, a public records request had been placed on behalf of our organization for Baltimore County's documents on January 28, 2013.  In February, we received a letter confirming that our request would be granted.  However no calibration records were actually provided to us with that letter, and we did not actually receive any certificates until June.... well after the end of the legislative session.

The county also denied a portion of that same records request for the "FCC ID" (an identifier issued by the Federal Communications Commission for radio emitting electronic devices to ensure they operate only at particular frequencies and avoid interference with other devices), claiming that private contractor Xerox was the custodian of this information.  Three local government which used this particular model of camera (G1-ATR) had been asked for its FCC ID, and none were able to provide the information.