A proposal that would allow speed cameras to be installed around school and construction zones in Baltimore passed the first round of City Council voting Tuesday. If the measure passes, the cameras could be in use by October.

"It's a start to really begin to address the speeding problem around schools and other places," Mayor Sheila Dixon said.

Dixon first proposed the use of speed cameras in 2007 as part of a traffic-calming plan that included installing speed bumps and rumble strips throughout the city. However, the city needed permission from the General Assembly before speed cameras could be used.

In May, state legislators passed a law allowing speed cameras within a half-mile of school zones and road construction sites.

Speed cameras, like red-light cameras, can snap photos of traffic violations. A $40 ticket would be sent to the address linked to the vehicle's license plate if the speed limit is exceeded by at least 12 mph.

The city Finance Department expects to take in $7.1 million from speed-camera violators during fiscal year 2010. Dixon has denied critics' suggestions that the cameras would be used solely as revenue-generators for the city.

The mayor says "people have become more conscientious" around red-light cameras, and she hopes speed cameras would have the same effect on heavy-footed drivers.

"This should not replace traditional speed enforcement methods," Baltimore Police Lt. Leslie Bank told the council's judiciary and legislative investigations subcommittee on Tuesday. "These can augment our force. It's like a force multiplier."

State law requires that signs be posted in areas where speed cameras are in use, notifying drivers of their presence. Additionally, the Baltimore law would allow the issuing of warnings instead of tickets during a 30-day grace period after the first camera is installed in an area.

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