The District beefs up its speed camera program

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Local,Maryland,Ben Giles

Nineteen new speed cameras have been set up around the District, as the Metropolitan Police Department's speed enforcement program expanded an initiative that already collects more than $10 million annually from area motorists.

Police say the new sites were chosen for their high number of crashes and injuries. Officials also considered recommendations made by the Department of Transportation and Advisory Neighborhood Commissions when deciding where the new cameras should be placed.

Traffic experts said placing the cameras near where serious crashes occur makes sense.

"Our position across the board is if cameras are being installed for safety purposes and to prevent accidents, we're all for it," said Kristin Nevels, spokeswoman for AAA Mid-Atlantic. "The D.C. program is doing a good job of keeping people safe."

The new cameras can be found throughout D.C. in pairs, ticketing drivers traveling in both directions on roads such as Rhode Island Avenue Northeast, Connecticut Avenue Northwest, and Bladensburg Road Northeast.

Of the 19 new locations, four of the sites will have fixed speed cameras. The rest will join the District's approximately six-dozen enforcement zones where mobile speed cameras are moved about.

Police Chief Cathy Lanier has said the cameras are in place to modify drivers' behavior, not to collect more funds for the city's coffers. However, the amount of money collected from issued tickets has been on the rise, according to police data.

The number of tickets issued has risen steadily since fiscal 2007, when about 275,000 tickets were mailed to motorists. Three years later, more than 550,000 speeding tickets were issued in one year.

The city hasn't posted new data on its speed enforcement program since May 2010.

But according to AAA Mid-Atlantic, District police issued more than 600,000 speed camera and red light tickets in fiscal 2010 and raked in about $50 million in revenue.

Without accounting for the latest expansion of the program, the city is on pace to eclipse that figure by $10 million in fiscal 2011, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesman John Townsend.

"What we're seeing across the country is increasing dependency on the part of municipalities, in the worst budget crisis in 50 years, to rely more on automated enforcement to increase revenue," Townsend said.

The cameras, which police say are now in effect, will be issuing warnings through the end of September. Motorists will begin receiving citations and fines on Oct. 1.

Speeding fines in the District range from $75 to $250.

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Ben Giles

Staff Writer - Crime Beat
The Washington Examiner