Revived Baltimore speed camera system to begin issuing $40 fines Monday

Baltimore will begin issuing speed camera tickets to motorists Monday for the first time since 2013, when the cameras were shut off amid accuracy concerns.

Transportation Director Michelle Pourciau said 10 speed cameras will start issuing the $40 tickets. At the same time, eight red-light cameras will begin a month-long warning phase before they issue $75 tickets.

“We’re going to start fining,” Pourciau said. “So slow down.”

She said the 10 speed cameras have together issued about 1,000 warnings per day since they were put online in June.

While the cameras are expected to generate millions in revenue for the city’s budget, Pourciau said the primary goal is to make the roads safer.

“Safety is No. 1,” she said. “We’re experiencing over 20,000 crashes per year in Baltimore. This is no joke.”

City officials in May awarded contracts to revive the once-troubled system that has been shut down for four years.

Under the contract, American Traffic Solutions will be paid $5.4 million over the next five years to run the city's speed camera system, while Conduent Inc. will be paid $4.2 million to run the red-light camera system. A third firm, MRA Digital LLC, will be paid $80,000 a year to calibrate the cameras annually.

The firms will not be paid per citation, a past practice known as the “bounty system” that the General Assembly outlawed in response to a Baltimore Sun investigation.

The cameras will use radar and laser technology; some are mobile. The city plans to use cameras near 14 schools — Frederick Douglass High, Vanguard Collegiate Middle, Holy Angels Catholic, Edmondson Westside High; Glenmount Elementary/Middle, Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, Gwynns Falls Elementary, Gilmor School, Hamilton Elementary/Middle, St. Elizabeth School, Baltimore City College, Calvin Rodwell Elementary, Frederick Elementary and Baltimore IT Academy.

State Del. Cory V. McCray, who represents East Baltimore, said news of the cameras’ return is being met with “mixed reviews.”

“There are a lot of people who think it’s just about people getting tickets,” McCray said. “There are others who are concerned about safety in front of the schools. The most important thing is transparency and knowing where the cameras are going to be.”

State Del. Nick J. Mosby, who represents West Baltimore, questioned why some locations were chosen and others weren’t. He noted that in the initial roll-out of cameras, most were located on the west side of Baltimore.

“What empirical data was used to put so many cameras in West Baltimore?” he asked. “Are there more accidents? Safety should be the ultimate goal. Everyone deserve to be safe.”

This is the city's third camera program, following two failed attempts in which cameras issued erroneous tickets to drivers who were not speeding. The system, which was run for years by Xerox State and Local Solutions and briefly by Brekford Corp., was shut down in April 2013.

The previous system of 83 speed cameras and 81 red-light cameras once brought in nearly $20 million a year for the city. But it was dogged by questions about its accuracy after a Baltimore Sun investigation revealed numerous problems.

The system, once the largest in North America, had brought in $140 million since 1999 to city government.

Baltimore officials have said the new system will be much smaller than previous versions. Transportation officials say they've added new quality control staff, including an ombudsman to deal with allegations of erroneous tickets. All camera locations will be published on the city's website before the program launches.

City officials have hired former Prince George's County Police Maj. Robert V. Liberati to oversee the program. Liberati previously ran the Prince George's speed camera system.

Maryland law allows jurisdictions to issue $40 speed camera tickets to vehicles traveling 12 miles per hour or more over the speed limit. Red-light camera tickets carry a $75 fine.

Several neighboring jurisdictions, including Baltimore County, Howard County and the State Highway Administration, have their own speed camera programs.

lbroadwater@baltsun.com

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