Baltimore County police not pursuing cameras on school buses 'at this time'

A state law that will allow law enforcement agencies to place cameras on school buses to capture motorists who illegally pass the buses goes into effect Oct. 1.

But don't look for the cameras on Baltimore County Public Schools buses any time soon.

County Police Chief Jim Johnson "is not exploring school bus cameras at this time," according to police spokeswoman Elise Armacost.

The law, which enables boards of education and law enforcement agencies to collaborate to put cameras on school buses, was passed in April during the 2011 General Assembly session, and officially goes into effect Saturday.

The bill requires law enforcement and school systems to work together on a plan — if they desire.

But Armacost said county police aren't pursuing it, and as of Friday afternoon, officials at Baltimore County Public Schools had no comment.

State Del. Steve Lafferty, who represents the 42nd District, which includes Towson, voted for the bill, and said he's "disappointed" that police aren't moving toward implementing it.

But he also noted that he is uncertain of the cost of such a project, and was fairly certain funds for it were not in the county's budget for this year.

Still, Lafferty believes drivers who pass school buses create a dangerous situation for all involved.

In February, the Maryland Department of Education conducted a one-day survey in which drivers were asked to record the number of vehicles that passed stopped school buses.

A total of 4,712 bus drivers participated in the survey — 65 percent of school bus drivers in Maryland — and reported 7,028 violations on that day alone.

Roughly half of Baltimore County's 880 school bus drivers responded, and the 1,723 violations reported in the county that day checked in as the most in the state, according to the study.

"Not every jurisdiction participated, but you end up with a snapshot of how dangerous it can be, to not have ways to enforce the law," Lafferty said.

For the county, the situation with school bus cameras stands in contrast with a similar issue two years ago, when speed cameras were enacted.

After the state passed legislation allowing speed cameras in Maryland, Johnson sought, and received, approval from the County Council to install speed cameras in school zones. Currently the county operates speed cameras in 15 school zones.

Jay R. Thompson contributed reporting to this story.

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