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Speed camera audits shouldn't be limited to the city

The revelations of the secret audit of Xerox State and Local Solutions' operation of Baltimore’s speed camera system showing the company had error rates 40 times higher than what city officials were telling the public, should prompt a review of speed cameras in other jurisdictions, including the state.

 In June 2010, the same company, then known as ACS State and Local Solutions, won the contract to operate the pilot program for the Maryland SafeZones Program.  Xerox acquired ACS that same year.

In November 2012, Red Maryland reported the details of a negative legislative audit of the MarylandSafeZone Program. 

The audit revealed that SHA awarded the operator of the pilot system the contract for the full Maryland SafeZone Program -- it was the only bidder -- even though the company’s proposal was not in compliance with the RFP requirements.  Auditors also found that the system did not undergo an independent calibration test -- as required by law -- until nine months after it began speed monitoring operations.

 More importantly the audit also revealed several critical deficiencies in the accuracy of the program’s speed detection capabilities.


At the time of the contract award and as of April 2012, the specific speed detection equipment (scanning LIDAR, a laser system) listed in the contractor’s proposal, and ultimately used, was not reported by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) as conforming to its guidelines, as required by the RFP.  The contract required that all equipment conform with IACP’s speed detection equipment standards to provide assurance of its calibration and functionality. We were advised by a member of the IACP, who was also a SHA consultant, that the scanning laser technology used was new and that IACP had not yet developed performance standards by which the system could be judged.  The October 26, 2009 RFP required that the proposed equipment record a legible image of the violating vehicle’s rear license plate 95 percent of the time, regardless of the time of day, environmental conditions, or vehicle positioning. However, in May 2010, during the bid evaluation process, this measure was changed to 90 percent, and we were advised by SHA management personnel that this was the result of the contractor asserting that it was unable to meet the 95 percent legibility measure.

Prior to awarding the contract, SHA used a consulting firm to conduct a system accuracy test of the contractor’s proposed equipment in an active highway work zone. However, the consulting firm deviated from SHA’s testing instructions and therefore, the basis for the conclusion that the equipment met performance requirements is questionable. For example, SHA directed the consulting firm to have test vehicles perform 40 test runs in which the contractor’s speed measuring equipment would be compared to two independent radars, one which was inside and one which was outside the vehicle. However, the consulting firm only conducted 18 test runs and only reported the results of 8 of those runs. Moreover, five of those eight reported runs were made using vehicles lacking independent interior radar, so the results could only be measured against one independent radar, rather than two as planned. Nevertheless, the consulting firm stated that the observed results fell within acceptable standards, and SHA’s technical evaluation team gave an overall “good” ranking of the contractor for the applicable bid evaluation attribute. SHA could not provide a reasonable explanation or documentation regarding why the tests were considered sufficient.

The failures of Xerox/ACS in running Baltimore’s speed camera system and the findings of this 2012 legislative audit of the state’s program should prompt enough concern to ensure the MarylandSafeZone program is not issuing erroneous citations and operating within the guidelines of the contract and state law.

--Mark Newgent has contributed commentary to The Washington Examiner and National Review Online, and he is an frequent guest on WBAL Radio. His posts appear here regularly via Red Maryland, which has strived to be the premier blog and radio network of conservative and Republican politics and ideas in the free state since 2007.

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