Candidates split on racism of camera sites

Leading D.C. mayoral hopefuls are undecided on whether the city’s automated speed-cameras are disproportionately placed in black communities but agree the locations should be more strictly scrutinized.

Lobbyist and mayoral candidate Michael A. Brown took the strongest stance on the issue, saying he would eliminate the cameras entirely.

“By looking at the locations, I don’t think there’s any question that they’re disproportionate,” Mr. Brown said. “If I’m elected, I’m taking them all out — from Ward 1 to Ward 8.”

Yesterday, The Washington Times reported that some D.C. residents were concerned about a perceived racial disparity among the areas monitored by the cameras.

Of the 34 speed-enforcement zones monitored by the District in April, 23 of them were in Northeast and Southeast — predominantly black sections of the city.

Mr. Brown said he wasn’t sure whether race played a factor in the cameras’ placement, but was nevertheless uncomfortable with the “Big Brother” atmosphere that the cameras foster.

“I’ve had a problem with the cameras from Day One,” he said. “They were never about safety, they were about revenue. Clearly, it isn’t helping safety if the revenues continue to go up.”

The other candidates disagreed about the cameras’ usefulness.

D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp, a Democrat, said the cameras are solely used to curb speeders and would expand the program if elected.

“The idea for the camera is for public safety,” she said. “I’m not against cameras. Cameras, I think, will help bring about more safety in the communities.”

Adrian M. Fenty, Ward 4 Democrat, said he hasn’t heard complaints of racial disparity concerning the cameras but added, “I think we should equally enforce the law against people who speed in our residential areas. We should look to put cameras wherever they’re needed.”

Verizon executive Marie C. Johns said she also would continue to deploy the cameras, provided the locations were properly researched.

“[T]hey should serve a purpose. We can’t make the claim that the cameras are about safety if the most dangerous intersections aren’t monitored,” she said.

Council member Vincent B. Orange Sr., Ward 5 Democrat, did not respond to repeated attempts yesterday for comment on the cameras.

Other council members also questioned whether the cameras are properly deployed but were in accord that race was probably not a factor.

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