For months, speed cameras have quietly been clicking away in Annapolis, recording speeders and sending them $40 fines.
Between the launch of the program in April 2013 and Wednesday, the cameras have generated 8,981 tickets that will net $242,487 for the city once they're all paid.
That's a bit above the pace the city anticipated — officials expected to generate $200,000 in the first year of the speed camera program.
Thus far, 5,511 tickets have been paid, resulting in $148,797 for the city.
Annapolis Police Maj. Scott Baker, who oversees the speed camera program, said he's taken pains to make sure the cameras work properly and do their job of getting people to slow down, hoping to avoid the problems that have dogged Baltimore's speed camera program.
"This is such a hot potato, you want to be above reproach," he said.
Baker said the goal has been to get drivers to slow down and to reduce crashes, and he said there's been a slight decrease in crashes since the cameras went into operation. There were 523 crashes between April 2012 and December 2012, and 514 crashes during the same period of 2013 with cameras in place.
Additionally, pedestrian accidents have dropped by more than a third, from 35 to 22, he said.
After state lawmakers allowed local governments to install speed cameras, Annapolis approved a contract with RedSpeed USA. Annapolis is the only part of Anne Arundel County that regularly uses speed cameras. Anne Arundel County police do not have speed cameras. The State Highway Administration has used speed cameras in the past in construction zones, including a camera in an SUV on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway that was vandalized in 2011.
Annapolis has multiple cameras in metal boxes that can be moved among locations — all of which must be within a certain proximity of schools. Speed cameras are currently in place on Forest Drive near Annapolis Middle School, on Hilltop Lane near St. Martin's Lutheran School and Aleph Bet Jewish Day School, and on Cedar Park Drive near the Phoenix Academy and Germantown Elementary.
They operate weekdays between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m.
The cameras measure a vehicle's speed, and if it is at least 12 mph above the speed limit, it snaps pictures to identify the vehicle. The resulting reports go to Annapolis police, and officers review each violation before sending out a ticket. So far, officers have approved nearly 81 percent of the violations recorded by the cameras.
The tickets are $40 each, with $13 going to RedSpeed and $27 going to the city's general fund. If a driver doesn't pay, the Motor Vehicle Administration is alerted and the vehicle's registration can't be renewed until the ticket is paid.
Drivers can contest their tickets on the traffic docket in District Court — and some people have.
This month, three Annapolis drivers succeeded in persuading a judge to void their tickets issued by the camera on Cedar Park Drive, which has proved to be the busiest and most lucrative camera in Annapolis, with 4,004 tickets issued.
In those three cases, the drivers looked at photos of their vehicles on their tickets and went out to the street to measure the distance between the two photos. They then used the time stamps on the photos and worked out the math to determine how fast they were going.
The drivers all contended that their calculations showed they were going much slower than what the speed camera measured. That argument cast enough doubt that a judge voided the tickets, even though Debra Beerup, client relations manager with RedSpeed, said they were "comparing apples and oranges."
Beerup said the cameras use Doppler shift technology to measure a vehicle's speed and then snap photos to identify the vehicle. The photos, she said, aren't part of the measurement.
The three drivers who successfully fought tickets said they generally support speed cameras and want to reduce speeding on Cedar Park, which is often used as a shortcut for drivers who want to avoid busier roads such as Rowe Boulevard and West Street.
Dawn Braun said she's been nailed repeatedly by the Cedar Park camera, which is down the street from the schools by Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
"If I had just had one, I probably would have paid it," she said. She had one ticket dismissed in court and Baker canceled three others in the fall when she questioned whether the camera was working properly.
Braun told Judge H. Richard Duden III that she supports the cameras, especially since her children will soon attend Germantown Elementary. "I respect the intent of the camera, but I firmly believe it was malfunctioning," she said.
The speed camera recorded Braun at 42 mph; she thinks she was going just under 21 mph.
Jaime Hanafourde was clocked going 48 mph on Cedar Park, which she said is highly unlikely. The speed limit is 25 mph and she believes she drove just under 30 mph.
"You'd absolutely know it's wrong to travel at [48 mph]," she said.
Corinne Irwin, accused of going 43 mph, also had her ticket dismissed by Duden. "I don't speed in general, and I did not speed on the day I was cited," she said.
After the court hearing, Baker said police checked and tested the Cedar Park Road camera and found it was working properly. In addition to checking the mechanics of the camera, police have run standard radar guns alongside the speed camera.
"I have confidence in what we're doing," Baker said, adding that he thinks violations eventually will decrease on Cedar Park.
"At some point, people will get the message that the cameras will be there until we see a change," he said.
RedSpeed is now offering training on speed camera operations for Anne Arundel judges who preside in traffic court. Beerup said some judges might not be familiar with her company's technology because speed cameras are still new in the area. She's confident her company's cameras work well.
"We are going above and beyond what is mandated by law," she said.
Annapolis has had speed cameras in place since April 2013. The three cameras can be moved among different locations. Here's how many speeding tickets have been issued since implementation to drivers going at least 12 mph above the speed limit, according to police:
•Southeast Forest Drive at Annapolis Middle School: 1,046.
•Northwest Forest Drive at Annapolis Middle School: 2,033.
•Cedar Park Drive at Germantown Elementary School: 4,004.
•Hilltop Lane at Aleph Bet Jewish Day School: 1,718.
•Eastbound Forest Hills Avenue at Tyler Heights Elementary School: 48.
•Westbound Forest Hills Avenue at Tyler Heights Elementary School: 132.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun