The end of the Brekford contract means that more than 200 speed and red-light cameras owned by the city are sitting inactive along Baltimore's streets. Since camera vendors control the software for the devices, it's unlikely that the city will be able to use those cameras to enforce traffic laws, officials said.
William Johnson, the city's director of transportation, said the cameras could be used for other purposes, such as traffic studies.
"They may not be used for tracking speed," he said. "They may be used for traffic counts and other activities."
Johnson said the city plans to follow the recommendations of a mayoral task force that studied speed cameras. The task force, composed of city officials and outsiders, also recommended increasing oversight, changing the way camera sites are selected and creating a website with maps and other information of interest to the public
"One of the recommendations is to evaluate how we can move forward without the bounty system," Johnson said. "That is our intent."
Johnson, who joined city government six months ago, said Baltimore officials plan to start with a "smaller, manageable number of units and then expand over time."
The city had been counting on the cameras to generate more than $15 million this year: $11 million from the $40 speed camera citations and more than $4 million from $75 red-light camera tickets. The company was to have had a share of every ticket paid — $11.20 per speed camera ticket.
City officials had estimated total revenue over the five-year contract at $93 million.
The city is projecting a $20 million budget deficit next year, which could have largely been eliminated had the cameras been online, Pratt said.
"That could have been enough to cover the shortfall for the budget deficit," she said.
Rawlings-Blake emphasized Wednesday that the tickets help keep children in school zones safe. She touted city statistics that she said showed a 29 percent reduction in crashes at intersections with speed cameras.
But citywide, Baltimore experienced a nearly 5 percent increase in traffic accidents from 2009 to 2012 — a four-year span during which the city rolled out and ramped up its network of speed cameras, according to state police.
Ragina Averella, government affairs director at AAA Mid-Atlantic, said any new program should avoid the so-called "bounty system."
"That's of great concern to AAA and the majority of our members," Averella said. "We want to make sure there's no incentive for them to rack up more tickets."
She said she supports plans to move forward with fewer cameras. "They probably should start much smaller and see exactly where they go from there," she said.
City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young, one of the four board members who voted in favor of Wednesday's deal, said it is necessary to resume the camera program.
"We're just as frustrated as the citizens are," Young said. "I recognize it's for safety, but it's also for revenue. I'm not going to lie about that. Other counties have cameras, and we should have them, too."