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City red light cameras are a form of highway robbery

Local Government

I read with interest the letter detailing abuses of the speed camera system in Maryland ("Speed cameras nail the innocent, too," Feb. 4).

Abuses unfortunately also extend to the red light system. Some time ago I received a citation from Baltimore's Department of Finance, Bureau of Revenue Collections demanding $75 for committing an illegal turn on red at a city intersection.

However, turning on red is perfectly legal at that intersection, and the photograph on the citation shows my vehicle not even yet in the intersection, with the brake light on to boot. It was in fact stopped. Only then was the legal turn on red completed.

I tried to obtain a court date and exercise my right to contest the charge, but at that point the fun was only starting. The phone number listed to secure a court date, is — surprise — never answered. The Baltimore city website did not even list the citation number. In the meantime, I received a stern, follow-up warning that if I didn't pay by a certain date, the fine would increase to $100 and eventually the vehicle's registration would be jeopardized.

I kept at it, however, and called the Maryland District Court, and was given the name of an actual human being at the Department of Finance that I could talk to. The person there advised me that I might get an court date in four to six months, and that it would probably take place before my auto registration was suspended for non-payment. As for the warning notices, I was advised to ignore them. I still don't have a court date.

But the story doesn't end there. My wife, who works at a high school nearby, has observed other cars stop at the same the red light, have their picture taken by the camera, and then go on to complete what the drivers think is a perfectly legal turn.

It's difficult to believe that the red light camera system here and elsewhere in the state isn't "rigged." It is also difficult to believe that our state and local governments have descended to the level of committing or sanctioning obvious and systematic acts of extortion to squeeze yet more money out of the public.

I am forced to ask why Her Honor the Mayor or His Excellency the Governor don't simply instruct police to randomly stick their guns in people's faces and relieve them of their wallets? What's the difference?

Drage Vukcevich

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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