The Harford County Sheriff's Office will not pursue installing exterior safety cameras on school buses, after a review of the proposed program by Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler and members of the county's Traffic Safety Advisory Board.
The camera initiative was proposed by Gahler's predecessor as sheriff, Jesse Bane, and authorized by the Harford County Council in 2014, but has languished since Gahler succeeded Bane in December of that year.
"Together, they determined that this is currently not the best resource to promote school bus safety for the Harford County Sheriff's Office or the citizens of Harford County," Sheriff's Office spokesperson Cristie Kahler explained in a recent email.
The advisory board, which is chaired by the sheriff, was established by County Council legislation in early 2014 to cut in half the number of deaths and injuries related to traffic accidents. The board was established at former sheriff Bane's urging, as well. Gahler defeated Bane in the 2014 election.
"The sheriff will continue to work closely with the advisory board to find new and innovative ways to ensure our children get safely to and from school," Kahler stated.
The exterior cameras issue came up at a school board meeting earlier this year when, during the annual report of the school system safety and security committee, a board member asked about the status of the program and was told by the safety director that it was still being reviewed by the sheriff.
Gahler was still reviewing the program as of last summer, looking at factors such as technology and cost. The County Council passed a bill in October of 2014, shortly before the election that brought Gahler into office, giving the sheriff the authority to oversee installation, operation and maintenance of the cameras.
The cameras would have functioned like red-light cameras, by catching drivers who do not stop as children are being picked up or dropped off from school buses and then generating a ticket that is mailed to the violator. The County Council set the fine at $125.
The equipment would have been installed on Harford County Public Schools' nearly 500 buses, the majority of which are owned and operated by private contractors.
While still sheriff, Bane had been discussing the cameras with two vendors. He had planned to have the vendor cover installation and maintenance costs and a portion of the fines collected would have gone back to the vendor.
The only red light ticket cameras in Harford County are in the Town of Bel Air, which implemented them a number of years ago. Bane had not favored such cameras while he was sheriff, except for the school bus exterior camera proposal he championed. After leaving the Sheriff's Office, he became Bel Air's town administrator.