By Erin Cox, The Baltimore Sun
7:39 PM EST, November 29, 2012
The first speed cameras in Anne Arundel County will be up and running in Annapolis school zones within weeks, officials said.
More than a year has passed since the city council first approved the cameras. Three months have gone by while a contractor researched traffic patterns to determine where to put them. Mayor Joshua Cohen said this week that the project is nearing completion.
"Anytime you talk about speed cameras, it smacks a little bit of 'Big Brother,' " Cohen said. "I didn't want to rush into this. I wanted to make this as deliberate as possible."
While the appointed time to begin clocking motorists has yet to be set, city workers have already printed four of the dozens of signs meant to warn drivers of a $40 fine for cruising through one of 11 school zones around the city. There will be a 30-day grace period before tickets are issued.
The city's cameras — one stationary and several mobile — come onboard as speed camera systems across the state have come under scrutiny. An audit this month found that several state highway cameras were not properly calibrated and issued tickets where none was deserved. A review of Baltimore City data by The Baltimore Sun found the city continued to operate a camera months after it was found to be faulty. Baltimore City has invalidated nearly 6,000 tickets, The Sun found.
Cohen said Annapolis wanted to proceed cautiously because he expects residents to be irate if tickets are issued in error.
"We're familiar with the experience in Baltimore," Cohen said. "Even if 1 percent of the machines are faulty, that's a lot of tickets."
State lawmakers legalized speed cameras in 2009. Baltimore City and Baltimore, Howard, Montgomery and Prince George's counties have installed them. While the State Highway Administration has installed them in work zones along some Anne Arundel roadways, County Executive John R. Leopold has not supported putting them elsewhere in the county.
Cohen said he will meet with Police Chief Michael Pristoop within the next few days to finalize the spots for the cameras, which police officials said will be positioned to slow drivers before they reach school zones.
City officials crafted a "conservative" estimate in Annapolis' budget of $200,000 in revenue between now and July 1. The estimate translates into about 5,000 tickets in the first six months of operation.
Cohen reiterated that the cameras were for safety, not to generate cash. Schools spokesman Bob Mosier said that with about 25,000 children walking to school each day, the system supports additional safety measures wherever they can be installed.
While the addresses for the camera locations have not been set, the contracting company RedSpeed identified nearly every city school zone as a place for a camera. Current plans will place cameras near Bates Middle School, and Annapolis, Eastport, Georgetown East, Germantown, Mills-Parole, Tyler Heights and West Annapolis elementary schools, as well as private schools run by St. Mary's Parish and Congregation Kneseth Israel.
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