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Citations increase in second year of Howard speed camera program

The number of citations issued by the Howard County Police Department's speed camera program increased 67 percent through the first two months of the 2013-14 school year.

Since Aug. 26, the first day of school, though October, the School Zone Speed Camera program issued 5,829 citations compared to 3,472 issued during the same period in 2012.

Police attributed the increase to the deployment of two portable camera units (PCUs), which were added to the program at the beginning of the 2013-14 school year.

"We do believe the increased number of hours and citations is related to the addition of the two PCUs," said police spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn. "We projected the hours and citations would increase, as the program went from two to four total cameras. As people continue to be more aware that the cameras are distributed throughout school zones, we expect drivers will slow down and the citations will decrease over time."

The PCUs are rotated between 13 school zones — four high schools and nine elementary schools — and deployed in areas the speed camera vans, the primary enforcement method, have trouble setting up. The two vans and PCUs are in operation from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday. Vehicles traveling 12 miles per hour over the speed limit are issued $40 tickets.

Of the total number of citations issued this school year, 3,581 have come from the PCUs. Police said no unexpected issues have arisen with the PCUs since they were brought into the program.

While overall citation numbers are up, the number of citations issued by the speed camera vans is down from last year. From August through October of this year, the vans have issued 2,248 citations, which is more than 1,000 less than the same period last year.

In a report published in March, police called the program a success, citing speeds reduced by 65 percent on school zone roadways.

Revenue for the program is placed in the county's Traffic Safety Fund, which was created as part of the speed camera program that began in November 2011.. According to Llewellyn, approximately $251,000 is currently in the fund.

Money collected over the cost of the program will be used for traffic safety projects and enhancements, according to police. So far, the money in the fund has not been used, Llewellyn said.

According to police, the department has collected $162,520 from citations — $65,035 in September and $97,485 in October. Subtracting the costs to run the program, approximately $122,000, police have a surplus of $40,520 in two months.

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