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More speed cameras coming to the region in 2012

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Local,DC,Maryland,Transportation,Rachel Baye
Drivers in the Washington area can look forward in the new year to more of the speed-enforcement cameras that have raised millions of dollars for jurisdictions around Maryland and the District of Columbia.

Prince George's County plans to add an average of six cameras every month -- at least one this week -- aiming for 72 by July, said Maj. Robert Liberati, project manager of speed citation for the Prince George's County Police.

The county's cameras are brand new, with the first one set up in August and the first citations issued in September, Liberati said. In that short period, the county's 20 cameras have allowed the police to mail 93,425 citations, each carrying a $40 fine.

Citations issued
200920102011
Montgomery County545,790292,643300,737 (through November)
Prince George's CountyNot applicableNot applicable93,425 (Sept. 21 - Dec. 21)
Chevy Chase Village59,93255,41035,746 (through October)
RockvilleNot available39,98540,507 (through October)

Though Montgomery County has had speed cameras since 2006, the county is adding 10 new cameras in the coming months, which will bring their total to 78 cameras and six vans with speed-monitoring equipment, said Capt. Thomas Didone, director of the Montgomery County Police traffic division. As of Nov. 26, the county had issued 300,737 tickets in 2011, more than the 292,643 issued in all of 2010.

The District of Columbia also expanded its program in the fall, adding 19 cameras in September. The cameras bring in more than $10 million a year for the District, The Washington Examiner has reported.

According to law enforcement officials, the cameras are effective in getting drivers to slow down.

"I've written thousands and thousands of citations," Didone said. "These cameras have had far more effect in getting people to change their behavior ... than I have had in 25 years of writing speeding tickets."

Montgomery County Police Chief Tom Manger pointed to declining numbers of citations over the last few years as evidence that drivers are changing their behavior. In fiscal 2011 -- which ended June 30 -- 329,646 citations were issued, far below the 505,368 issued in fiscal 2009.

In Rockville, drivers are still speeding, but they're not going as fast. Police caught drivers going more than 40 miles over the speed limit in 2009, while in 2011 no one was caught going more than 20 miles over, said Maj. Robert Rappoport, who oversees the photo enforcement program for the Rockville Police.

But even as drivers slow down, the programs continue to earn millions for the jurisdictions that operate them and for Maryland.

Though Didone did not know how much Montgomery's program has earned, at $40 a citation, the county had the potential to bring in more than $13 million. Baltimore, whose program is the most profitable in the state, has earned $12.5 million so far this fiscal year, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesman John Townsend.

Examiner Archives
  • Prince George's speed cameras issue 13,173 tickets in first month (10/24/11)
  • Court upholds speed cameras in College Park (8/24/11)
  • According to Maryland law, jurisdictions are not permitted to keep revenues from their speed programs that exceed 10 percent of their gross revenue. For places like Chevy Chase Village, where speed-enforcement cameras on Connecticut Avenue earn about $2 million a year, that means giving up all but about $500,000 a year, said Chevy Chase Village Police Chief John Fitzgerald. After some revenue pays for the program, the rest goes to the state.

    As a result, Maryland has earned at least $2.2 million so far this fiscal year, Townsend said.

    And in some places -- like Connecticut Avenue -- drivers aren't learning their lesson. Though drivers who know where the cameras are will slow down as they approach them, Connecticut Avenue sees a lot of non-local traffic, said Fitzgerald, making the decline in citations year after year only slight.

    "We're not trying to trick anybody," Fitzgerald said. "I really don't feel bad at all when somebody goes 12 miles over the speed limit and gets ticketed."

    rbaye@washingtonexaminer.com

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