New speed camera near Loch Raven High School vandalized

Baltimore County Police said Monday the most recent incident of speed camera vandalism — spray-painting of a newly-installed camera on Cromwell Bridge Road on Aug. 17 — isn't a bump in the road for the county's enforcement program.

"Vandalism of the cameras typically has little or no impact on the police department's goal: to reduce speed in school zones," said Elise Armacost, director of media and communications for the police department.

County police received a phone call at 7:25 a.m. last Friday to report that the camera on Cromwell Bridge Road, near Loch Raven High School, had been spray-painted. The camera was not damaged.

Armacost said light red paint was used to spray expletives on the camera casing, and the lens was also painted. But the camera has been cleaned and is back in operation.

"The county's contract with the camera vendor calls for the vendor to make any necessary repairs or — in cases where the camera is defaced with paint or graffiti but not damaged — to remove the graffiti or paint. The vendor makes such repairs quickly," she said. "For example, the paint was removed from the Cromwell Bridge Road camera within a few hours."

Armacost said this is one of several cameras that have been defaced in the county. Late last month, speed cameras in both Catonsville and Arbutus were spray-painted, and last October, the police made an arrest in the case of a camera that was defaced in the North Point precinct, Armacost said.

"We have had several cameras vandalized in recent months, with a prosecution in one of those cases (the North Point incident)," she said.

"We remind citizens that vandalism is a crime, and that police will file appropriate charges if they identify the offender," Armacost said.

For instance, the person responsible for the Cromwell Bridge incident, if apprehended, would be charged with destruction of property, which is a misdemeanor.

The most serious vandalism occurred at a camera that was burned April 20 on South Rolling Rock Road in Catonsville. Armacost said the person responsible for that would be charged with malicious burning, a felony.

Baltimore County isn't alone in cases of speed camera vandalism. A recent article in the Baltimore Sun noted instances throughout the region, including a case in Howard County in which an Ellicott City man was arrested for allegedly shooting glass marbles as a speed camera with a slingshot.

In that article, Ragina Averella of AAA Mid-Atlantic said many motorists are "frustrated with what they view as a game of 'gotcha.' "

But county police have stressed that the cameras are for safety, and Armacost said, "The whole purpose of these cameras is to slow traffic in school zones."

The Cromwell Bridge camera is one of five new speed cameras that began operation on Aug. 8.

Baltimore County now has 22 speed cameras located near schools. Motorists who exceed the speed limit are subject to receive $40 tickets.

School zone speed cameras are in use Monday through Friday, between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. Police said the cameras operate even during the summer because schools are used for summer school, recreation and parks activities, summer athletics and other activities.

Jim Joyner contributed to this story.

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