Baltimore expands speed and red light camera system

Baltimore officials on Monday expanded the city’s speed and red light camera system — increasing both the number of cameras and the locations where they can be used.

The expansion will more than double the number of places where cameras can issue violations on the city’s streets. This is Baltimore’s third attempt at running a speed camera system, after previous cameras were shut down amid accuracy concerns.

Robert Liberati, director of the city’s speed and red light camera system, said the expansion is in response to community demand.

“We have many more requests for speed and red light cameras than we’ll probably ever get to,” he said. “Every neighborhood wants one; every council person wants one.”

The new speed cameras, which have issued more than 36,000 citations since they were reinstated in August, will now be located in 21 school zones, instead of 14. They issue $40 fines.

The new red light cameras, which have issued nearly 2,000 fines this year, will now be located at 29 locations instead of eight. Those fines are $75.

The city pays a monthly fee to rent the cameras.

City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young said he supports the expansion and wants a camera restored in his East Baltimore neighborhood at Madison and Caroline streets. He said speeding cars endanger students walking to nearby Paul Laurence Dunbar High School and the National Academy Foundation, which serves children in middle and high school.

“They should be in neighborhoods where there are high volumes of accidents and speeding,” Young said. “People say it is a money maker. It is a money maker, but it is also to slow drivers down. If you slow down, you won’t have to worry about getting caught with a speeding ticket. People just need to slow down.”

Ragina Averella, public and government affairs manager at the driver-advocacy group AAA Mid-Atlantic, said she’s watching the city’s expansion closely. She said previous attempts at a speed and red light camera system grew too large and ran into problems.

“We were concerned with the amount of cameras under previous programs,” Averella said. “Practically the entire city was designated as a school zone. We have not seen that same type of loose interpretation under this administration.”

The new system hasn’t been without flaws. On the first day of operation last month, the program’s vendor issued more than $38,000 in duplicate tickets.

An older, larger version of the system was shut down in 2013 after The Baltimore Sun reported that the cameras were erroneously issuing tickets. At its height, the previous system had more than 160 cameras and generated nearly $20 million in revenue annually. During that time, police officers were asked to review and approve as many as five or six speed camera citations per minute.

New vendor American Traffic Solutions has a $5.4 million contract with the city to operate the speed cameras. Conduent Inc. is being paid $4.2 million to run the red light camera system.

Local community association presidents contacted by The Sun said they weren’t thrilled to hear about the system’s expansion.

“It’s just a cash cow for the city and it doesn’t make any of the city safer,” said Jean Pula, president of the Hampstead Hill Association. “The systems have been fraught with problems. People get tickets who don’t deserve them. It doesn’t slow down people. I think the city just wants to make money.”

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh announced her plan to revive the traffic cameras when unveiling her first budget, which included a projection of $8 million in revenue from the cameras.

“In general, nobody wants them,” Erica Mullin, president of the East Rosemont Community Association, said of speed cameras. “The red light cameras to me are more meaningful. Red light cameras? Sure. But I feel like the speed cameras are just catching people going 5 to 7 miles over the limit.”

Mullin argued the Pugh administration should focus more on reducing violent crime.

“Is this attention to speed and red light cameras where we should be focusing our time and attention?” she asked. “This is not going to solve our larger issues about safety and crime.”

Sandra Taft, president of the Action Group of Shipley Hill, said she believes it’s dangerous for children to walk to nearby Frederick Elementary School, which was just renovated.

The school has a speed camera out front, but Taft doesn’t think it’s helping with safety. The problem, she said, is the large trucks and buses that drive down narrow streets in the neighborhood.

Because of industrial businesses located nearby, 18-wheelers sometimes ride up on the sidewalks while trying to turn on neighborhood streets as children are walking to school, Taft said.

“These vehicles violate the sidewalks. This has been a serious safety problem,” she said. “Speed cameras are not the answer for the safety solution we need here. The mayor needs to look at real comprehensive solutions for pedestrian safety.”

The speed cameras operate from Monday to Friday in city school zones from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. They are located near the following schools: Frederick Douglass High School, Vanguard Collegiate Middle School, Holy Angels Catholic School, Edmondson Westside High School, Glenmount Elementary/Middle School, Baltimore Polytechnic Institute/Western High School, Gwynns Falls Elementary School, Gilman School, Hamilton Elementary/Middle School, Mergenthaler High School, Baltimore City College High School, Calvin M. Rodwell Elementary School, Frederick Elementary School, Benjamin Banneker Eubie Blake Academy, Westport Academy Elementary Middle School, Wolfe Street Academy, Maree G. Farring Elementary/Middle School, Arlington Elementary/Middle School, Archbishop Curley High School, St. Elizabeth School, and Curtis Bay Elementary/Middle School.

The red light cameras are located at the following intersections: Reisterstown Road (Southbound) at Patterson Avenue, East North Avenue (Westbound) at North Howard Street, South Monroe Street (Northbound) at Washington Boulevard, South Monroe Street (Southbound) at Washington Boulevard, Belair Road (Southbound) at Erdman Avenue, Erdman Avenue (Eastbound) at Belair Road, Pulaski Highway (Eastbound) at North Point Road, North Calvert Street (Northbound) at East Baltimore Street, Harford Road (Northbound) and The Alameda, Harford Road (Southbound) and The Alameda, West Northern Parkway (Eastbound) and Greenspring Avenue, West Northern Parkway (Westbound) and Greenspring Avenue, Erdman Avenue (Eastbound) and North Macon Street, and Erdman Avenue (Westbound) and North Macon Street.

Also, East 33rd Street (Eastbound) and Greenmount Avenue, East 33rd Street (Westbound) and Greenmount Avenue, Loch Raven Boulevard (Northbound) and East Belvedere Avenue, Loch Raven Boulevard (Southbound) and East Belvedere Avenue, Pulaski Highway (Eastbound) and Moravia Park Drive, West Northern Parkway (Westbound) and Falls Road, North Fulton Avenue (Northbound) and West North Avenue, Light Street (Southbound) and West Pratt Street/East Pratt Street, West Pratt Street (Eastbound) and Light Street, East Madison Street (Westbound) and North Linwood Avenue, East Belvedere Avenue (Eastbound) and Hillen Road, Aliceanna Street (Eastbound) and South Wolfe Street, Aliceanna Street (Westbound) and South Wolfe Street, Liberty Heights Avenue (Eastbound) and West Northern Parkway, and Liberty Heights Avenue (Westbound) and West Northern Parkway.

Baltimore Sun reporter Yvonne Wenger contributed to this article.

lbroadwater@baltsun.com

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