"Our program is pretty darn both effective and well-operated," said Jamie Kendrick, who has overseen speed cameras as a deputy transportation director for the city. He described the systemwide error rate as being "well south of one-half of 1 percent."

Averella said that while AAA shares the city's goal of enhancing safety near schools, issues such at those detailed by The Sun reinforce suspicions that the main purpose is to raise money.

"I think it's a public perception problem the city is going to have to work hard to address," she said Sunday. "All it does is chip, chip away at the integrity of the program and makes it hard for motorists to believe it's about safety."

In the case of the Cold Spring camera, city transportation officials said this month that they were testing that device and one on the opposite side of the road. "We have discovered that some larger vehicles may have experienced radar effects that led to abnormal speed readings," officials said by email, adding that refunds will be issued if they find there was interference.

A spokesman for the city's speed camera contractor, Xerox State and Local Solutions Inc., said the company and the city "conducted a thorough investigation" after learning of a potential problem with the Cold Spring camera.

"This investigation determined that the speeds recorded for an extremely limited number of high-profile vehicles were excessive due to radar effects, most likely reflection off the large metallic surfaces of these vehicles," spokesman Chris Gilligan said in an email. "Unfortunately, in these instances, the radar effects were not identified due to human error."

Gilligan said the company also "added in an extra quality-control step in the review process for tickets that are 30 mph over the limit to better prevent these anomalies." A new company, Brekford Corp. of Anne Arundel County, will take over the city's speed camera contract in January.

Clarke said Sunday that the city should have pulled the plug on the camera in February, as soon as a Xerox manager told a city transportation engineer he thought the camera had inaccurately recorded a truck's speed. "I would have turned it off and not turned it on again until I was sure there were no problems," she said.

Clarke said The Sun's findings complicate her plan to introduce legislation requiring school bus companies to report citations to the city. Last month, The Sun published findings that hundreds of privately owned buses have received speed camera tickets in the city.

"Until the camera system is accurate in the eyes of the courts and of the public," Clarke said, "this kind of reporting is not as valuable as it should be for us to protect children."

scalvert@baltsun.com

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