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D.C. October traffic camera revenues up more than 400 percent

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Photo - Traffic camera (Examiner file photo)
Traffic camera (Examiner file photo)
Local,DC,Alan Blinder

The District raked in 418 percent more in fines from its network of traffic cameras in October than it did in the same month last year, but the figure was a huge decline from the city's September take.

Statistics from the District's chief financial officer show the city collected about $350,000 in automated enforcement fines in October, up from about $65,000 in October 2011.

"It goes to show that we're putting an extraordinary burden on our citizens, and it's not really for a good reason," said Ward 6 D.C. Councilman Tommy Wells, who is pressing to reduce the fines.

Earlier this month, Mayor Vincent Gray reduced some speed camera fines, though he raised the penalty for the most flagrant violation.SClBSClBUp to 10 mph over
Before: $75
After: $50
11 to 15 mph over
Before: $125
After: $100
16 to 25 mph over
Before: $150
After: $150
21 to 25 mph over
Before: $200
After: $200
More than 25 mph over
Before: $250
After: $300

Despite the year-over-year surge, the District still hauled in far less in October than it did the month before, when it collected more than $14 million on its way to a one-year total of $84.9 million.

That shattered the previous District record, set during the 2011 fiscal year, of $55 million.SClBA spokeswoman for Mayor Vincent Gray said the month-to-month differences are because of when people choose to pay their citations.

"The amounts ... represent how the collections are reflected in the financial system, which at times may not reflect the timing on when the revenues are generated on a monthly basis," D.C. spokeswoman Doxie McCoy said.

The city's October collection concluded days before Mayor Vincent Gray announced he was unilaterally moving to slash some speeding fines to levels that the District said would likely cost D.C. nearly $24 million in revenue over the span of a fiscal year.

At the time, Gray, who has defended the cameras as vital to protecting residents and visitors, said the changes would "improve fairness while continuing to ensure and improve public safety."

Gray's decision came after months of rising pressure from lawmakers and advocates to cut the fines, which they decried as an ATM machine for a local government that, while better off than many of its peers, has faced budget shortfalls.

The District's traffic camera program, however, has been far more lucrative than similar efforts in other jurisdictions, largely because of D.C.'s enormous workday population and sprawling system.

Prince George's County took in about $8 million in one year, while Montgomery County has collected approximately $30 million since 2009.

Virginia does not allow speed cameras, though it does permit automated ticketing for running stoplights.

Wells said D.C. should take a cue from its neighbors.

"We need to reduce the fines further," Wells said. "Just cutting it down to $100 is still twice the amount that it is in Virginia and more than twice the amount than it is in Maryland. It's unfair."

ablinder@washingtonexaminer.com

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