Harford County could get speed cameras, but if it does, Harford County Sheriff Jesse Bane hopes to avoid the kind of controversy that recently hit Baltimore's camera system, with an investigation by The Baltimore Sun uncovering malfunctioning equipment and other irregularities with the system.
Bane told the Edgewood Community Council on Wednesday that he has already talked to several different vendors about putting speed cameras in school zones and on school buses to catch people who pass buses that are stopped.
"One of the things we have right now is this controversy that's developed over the speed cameras in Baltimore City and surrounding jurisdictions," Bane said. "I want to be real careful that if we do put speed cameras in Harford County that we don't encounter the same [controversy]."
"We want to demonstrate that we are putting them up for safety purposes, that it's not a money-making gimmick," he said.
Bane said the cameras would be placed where a traffic analysis shows speeding is an issue.
"The Willoughby Beach [Road] area has always been a problem," he said, referring to the road that passes by the shared campus of Edgewood High School, Edgewood Middle School and Deerfield Elementary School.
Although cameras in that school area would only be operating during school hours, it could also have a psychological effect by making people notice the cameras, Bane said.
Wanting speed cameras and having the authority to install and use them aren't the same. Maryland law governs where speed cameras may be used and one of Harford County's state senators says widespread use in Harford County is not allowed by law.
Sen. Barry Glassman, who is against speed cameras, said state legislation permitted speed cameras in school zones only, in any Maryland jurisdiction.
Without new state legislation, Harford County, therefore, is not allowed to have speed cameras outside of those zones.
"I think you are seeing in Baltimore City now, with the inaccuracy and so forth, it really is just a money-making operation," Glassman said about the cameras, adding that the technology is not as good as people thought it would be.
"I really think it's just degenerated into just a money-making proposition," he added.
Art Stuempfle, who recently helped write a book about the history of Edgewood, also told the council he was again concerned about a negative perception of the community.
Stuempfle said a group of college students studying "social welfare" were going to do an analysis of Edgewood and asked for information so they could assess the needs and assets of the area and what would improve the community.
The final report cited Edgewood as an area "now considered one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the Baltimore area," he said.
The report cited escalating drug violence and gangs, calling Edgewood "a troubled area."
"That really bothers me because they're really looking at a very small area," he said. "It would be nice to be able to kind of say, 'Hey, we're not that bad, in most cases.'"
Bane agreed with that assessment and pointed out that Harford County was also deemed the second-safest county in the state for violent crimes this past year.
Bane told Stuempfle: "You can tell them if the sheriff was that concerned, [his wife] wouldn't be allowed to shop in Edgewood, and she's here almost every day."