Wednesday, January 28, 2015

DC Photo Enforcement Revenues Decline Sharply Due to Broken Cameras

DC initially claimed that a sharp decline in speed camera was due to the cameras being effective at stopping speeding.  In reality, the revenue decline was largely because the cameras were broken.   From the Washington Post:
D.C. police acknowledged this week that a sharp decline in revenue from the city’s network of traffic enforcement cameras was due in part to problems maintaining some of the equipment — undermining earlier claims that the drop was mainly due to motorists doing a better job obeying the law.
Assistant Chief Lamar D. Greene, who oversees the camera program, said in a statement that severe weather last year contributed to the maintenance issues.
“During periods of extreme cold and snow last winter, there were instances when we could not change the batteries because they were not accessible, or the temperature affected the charge,” he said. “We have taken additional steps to enhance internal temperature controls since last winter, alleviating this problem.”
The police department responded after D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) blamed the maintenance problems for a $38 million reduction in camera revenue at a budget briefing Monday morning. Mendelson said the issues arose after the police department assumed direct responsibility for the operations of the cameras.
In fiscal 2012, the camera program raked in more than $85 million, according to figures provided by the D.C. Office of the Chief Financial Officer. That dropped a bit in fiscal 2013, to about $75 million, amid a debate over the expansion of the program and small adjustments to fine amounts and speed limits.
In fiscal 2014, which ended Sept. 30, the city took in less than $34 million.
When city financial officials warned about the precipitous drop-off in camera revenue in September, maintenance concerns never figured into city officials’ public explanations for the shortfall.
Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said at the time that the revenue figures represented proof that the cameras were working to reduce speeding and red-light-running.  “This demonstrates that drivers are changing their behavior,” she said in a statement. “The fact that infractions are going down is a good thing in my view. Automated traffic enforcement is and always has been about safety.”
A spokeswoman for then-Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) cited delays in deploying some new enforcement devices and higher speed limits on some streets — but did not mention maintenance concerns.
So is the DC City government "truth challenged" when it comes to telling the public the facts about their speed camera program?

Additional Coverage
Washington Post: Broken traffic cameras contributed to massive revenue decline, D.C. police say
WAMU: Malfunctioning Traffic Cameras Help Fuel D.C. Budget Deficit
MyFoxDC:  Broken traffic enforcement cameras contributes to large drop in revenue for DC