- The Washington Times - Monday, April 24, 2000

As cameras grow, violations reduce

Local drivers beware: Lockheed Martin Information Management Systems is watching you, and making money doing it.

The D.C.-based information technology company, a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin in Bethesda, has come to dominate the growing market for privately run red-light enforcement.

Last week's announcement that Lockheed Martin IMS inked a $3.3 million deal with Prince George's County to set up cameras to nab red-light runners at 60 intersections is just the latest in a string of similar contracts nationwide.

Now the company holds an 80 percent share of the market for red-light enforcement. EDS Corp., of Plano, Texas, is second in the market and has a red-light camera contract for Howard County.

Lockheed Martin has red light camera contracts now in the District, its surrounding suburbs and in about 49 other jurisdictions throughout North America and Australia. By the time the Prince George's cameras are installed, there will be nearly 110 systems at Washington area intersections.

Lockheed Martin takes a cut of about 30 percent on each of the violations cited, and red-light runners have so far netted about $90 million in revenues for the company.

"We anticipate the market in the next four years to triple," said Lockheed Martin spokesman Terry Lynam.

"That is primarily attributable to the growing number of cities and countries that are recognizing the proven benefits of this technology in saving lives," he said.

Red-light running accounts for nearly 260,000 crashes, 121,000 injuries and more than 800 deaths each year nationwide, according the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, an independent survey group in Arlington.

Fatal crashes at intersections with traffic signals rose 24 percent, from 1,888 in 1992 to 2,344 in 1997.

Local governments report, however, that red-light running has declined by as much as 60 percent in recent years as drivers have begun noticing the cameras.

Mr. Lynam said the cameras are having such a strong impact on drivers that red-light running is declining even at intersections where cameras are not present.

While each contract varies, typically, Lockheed Martin will not only install the cameras, but also will maintain the system capturing images, processing, issuing notices to drivers and even collecting fines.

Putting a private company in charge of law enforcement has raised some eyebrows, especially since the money made depends on the number of drivers flagged.

But Mr. Lynam notes that it is the camera itself that makes the call, triggering an image only if a car has crossed through a red light within one-tenth of a second. He said that, in each case, the images are also examined by a member of local law enforcement to determine if an infraction actually occurred.

"When people get a notice that they have been caught running a red light, they will get a copy of the picture of their car," Mr. Lynam said. "Many of those drivers will take those images to court and argue that the light was actually yellow. But as the old saying goes, 'the camera doesn't lie.'"

Photo law enforcement has been around for about two decades in Europe. But it first appeared on U.S. soil five years ago when red-light cameras were installed in New York City.

Mr. Lynam said the service has begun to catch on throughout the country, noting that the majority of Lockheed Martin's red-light contracts have been signed in just the last two years.

While Lockheed Martin is known mostly as a defense and aerospace giant, subsidiary Lockheed Martin IMS is making its name by helping municipalities with large scale transaction processing.

It is the same company that has outfitted downtown Washington with new high-tech parking meters, and is involved in enforcement and collection of the fines.

Lockheed Martin IMS also has taken control of managing the District's welfare-to-work program, providing participants with services such as job training an on-line access to listings.

The company has a contract with the city to update the welfare funds disbursement system, replacing food stamps with cash cards that can be used to buy groceries and extract funds from automated teller machines.

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