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D.C. takes in $2m from traffic cameras in December

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Local,DC,Alan Blinder

The District's controversial traffic camera program collected nearly $2 million in December, up more than 2,000 percent from the same time in 2011, city records show.

According to a tentative report from the District's chief financial officer, D.C.'s 93 speed and stoplight cameras brought in $1.93 million in December.

That's up from the $85,000 the District collected in December 2011, and more than three-fourths of the $2.5 million the city has taken in so far in the fiscal year, which began in October.

Big difference
The District collected about $2.5 million from traffic cameras in the first three months of the 2013 fiscal year. In the same span in the 2012 fiscal year, it took in $111,000.

Ward 1 Councilman Jim Graham said he was worried about the sizes of the fines that generate such figures, even as city lawmakers acted last month to reduce some of them.

"The level of the fines concerns me, but, generally speaking, I think people do slow down," Graham said. "The question is what is the right fine, and I think the fines right now tend to be high."

And Graham said that even though the council has slashed some penalties, he remains concerned about their effects on some residents.

"They'll go down, but I'm very concerned about the impact on poor people, who are capable of speeding every bit as much as I am," Graham said.

Although the current pace indicates the District could fall short of its record-shattering $85 million haul in the 2012 fiscal year, the city could increase its collections in future months as the camera program expands.

Last month, police officials told The Washington Examiner that they planned to add 134 new ticket-generating cameras in 2013, more than doubling the size of the existing network.

The District has stood by its program as an effective tool to combat traffic fatalities, with Mayor Vincent Gray repeatedly saying it is not about generating revenue.

The city in 2012 recorded 19 traffic-related deaths, a drop of more than 40 percent from the previous year.

"The system works," said mayoral spokesman Pedro Ribeiro. "The data proves it."

But a spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic questioned the extent of the technology's role in curbing fatalities and noted that traffic deaths have fallen nationwide.

"Automated enforcement can certainly play a role in reducing fatalities, but we continue to worry that in the District of Columbia, the emphasis seems to be on the city's coffers," said Lon Anderson.

And Anderson disputed that drivers are changing their behavior because of the threat of citations.

"If that was the case, we'd be seeing a steady trend downward in the fines that the cameras are producing," he said.

ablinder@washingtonexaminer.com

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