P.G. expands controversial speed camera program

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Local,Maryland,Ben Giles
The grace period for Prince George's County's new speed camera program has ended, as county police prepare to add more than a dozen of the controversial devices by week's end.

More than 2,000 motorists were caught speeding on Allentown Road by cameras positioned near Isaac Gourdine Middle School and Tayac Elementary School over the last 30 days, according to Maj. Robert Liberati, head of the county police department's forensic services division. Beginning Wednesday, drivers caught traveling 12 mph or more over the limit will be mailed $40 tickets instead of warnings.

A total 14 cameras will be set up at nine locations across the county, all within designated school zones, by the end of the week.

"What makes our program unique is ours is based on portable units," Liberati said. "When we've made our effect felt on a roadway, we want to pick up and move elsewhere."

By Wednesday afternoon, new cameras were already set up near Montpelier Elementary, Rosa Park Elementary, Northwestern High, Ardmore Elementary and High Bridge Elementary.

Eventually 72 mobile speed cameras will be available to more than 100 sites, 55 of which are established school zones. The remaining sites are still being tested to determine if speeding drivers are really an issue in the area, according to officials.

Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker pushed for speed cameras once he took office. The Prince George's County Revenue Authority projects the program will generate about $7.5 million, higher than the $4.3 million from speed cameras included in Baker's fiscal 2012 budget.

Former County Executive Jack Johnson never started the program, saying it amounted to an extra tax on residents. And critics say the program is focused on generating money, not providing safer roads.

AAA Mid-Atlantic has been an outspoken critic of Optotraffic, the Lanham-based company that operates Prince George's County's speed cameras. But a Maryland District Court judge upheld the accuracy of the company's equipment in August.

bgiles@washingtonexaminer.com

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Ben Giles

Staff Writer - Crime Beat
The Washington Examiner