- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 17, 2007

The number of citations issued in the District’s speed-camera program fell from 21,687 in February to 4,527 in March — a 79 percent decrease — but the amount of fines the citations generated remained relatively unchanged.

According to Metropolitan Police Department statistics, speed-camera citations in February generated about $1.88 million in fines while those in March produced about $1.7 million in fines, despite the sharp fall in the number of citations issued.

“We’ll have to take a long, hard look to know exactly what caused the drop,” said police spokeswoman Traci Hughes.

John B. Townsend II, spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic, called the disparity “perplexing and puzzling” and said it shakes public faith in the cameras.

“With monthly revenues remaining steady despite such a large drop-off in citations, it lends itself to all kinds of conspiracy theories,” he said. “When people see those numbers, it founds suspicions that the system is a revenue generator. … It’ll be interesting to see what the official explanation is for the decrease in citations.”

Miss Hughes said the police department is working with the city’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) — which handles ticket processing for the program — to determine the reason for the sharp decline in the number of citations.

“We have to go back to look at the vendor’s recording system, which could take some time,” Miss Hughes said.

Affiliated Computer Services (ACS), a Dallas-based company, was responsible for ticket processing in partnership with DMV.

But Phoenix-based American Traffic Solutions took over the maintenance contract for the city’s automated traffic-enforcement program from ACS in March, and police say the split contract awarded for the cameras has caused difficulties in collecting and compiling information.

“One thing residents and others can be assured of is that any tickets that were sent out were issued properly,” Miss Hughes said. “There’s no question about the validity of the tickets or the technology itself. There’s a very stringent system of checks and balances in place.”

According to the results of AAA’s biennial survey of motorists released this year, 47 percent say the cameras’ main purpose is to raise money. About 24 percent of those polled in the region say the cameras make streets safer.

The automated traffic-enforcement program has generated more than $172 million since 1999. The revenue from the program goes into the city’s general fund.

The speed cameras have generated more than $131 million in fines since they were first deployed in 2001, including a record $30.9 million last year. The city’s 50 red-light cameras have generated more than $40 million since their inception in 1999.

A citation for a red-light violation carries a $75 fine, and speeding violations can cost as much as $200, depending on how fast the vehicle was moving.

Police rotate 12 speed-camera-equipped vehicles through nearly 80 enforcement zones and keep 10 cameras at fixed locations. The number of cameras has not increased since October 2005.

Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said this month that three of the fixed-location speed cameras are not working but all of the camera-equipped vehicles are working.

Chief Lanier has said she favors expanding the red-light and speed-camera programs.

Miss Hughes said the department is considering new locations for the cameras, but Chief Lanier hasn’t decided on the program’s next developments.

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