- The Washington Times - Friday, August 10, 2001

Cities across the country have teamed up with Bethesda-based Lockheed Martin IMS and used its photo radar camera services to help slow down speeders — but few municipalities have embraced electronic law enforcement like the District.
Mesa, Ariz., and Portland, Ore. have used the photo radar technology for more than five years, but neither city has seen the sort of financial windfall the District expects. The District's contract with Lockheed, which processes the citations issued by the cameras, projects 80,000 new speeding tickets monthly and an estimated $11 million in new fines annually.
The District's speeding camera citations will cost motorists anywhere from $30 for minor violations to $200 for excessive speeding over 20 mph. Lockheed takes $29 from each ticket.
Police in Denver have an aggressive electronic traffic enforcement program, but officials there are issuing far fewer tickets from its two photo radar units — 200 to 300 daily — than the number of citations the District expects from its six photo radar units.
Officials in other cities are skeptical of the scope of the District's projections, too.
"Last year, it cost the city of Portland — without any of the officers — more than $180,000 to run the program," said Pat Nelson, the city's photo radar senior program manager and a retired police captain. "It doesn't make money, it dramatically reduces the incidents of speeding."
Mr. Nelson said last year police issued a total of 16,173 violations from two vans patrolling as many as 400 sites. Portland's average ticket is about $100 with up to $23 going to Lockheed.
Because of state mandates requiring money from tickets to go to the courts and various victim and counseling funds, Portland, a city of about 600,000, only nets about $10 a ticket, Mr. Nelson said.
Mesa, according to traffic division chief Lt. Steve Farago, actually loses money on its five photo radar vans.
"Mesa lost $55,742 on the program last year. It's not a moneymaker," Lt. Farago said, noting photo radar tickets in that city average about $115, with Lockheed taking $48.50 from each ticket.
The latest numbers Lt. Farago has on the number of photo radar violations are from 1999, but the 8,019 they had last year are fairly indicative of the number they get each year. Mesa has a population of about 395,000.
The District is expecting much higher numbers.
District Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said the department's tests of the equipment indicate that "speeding is rampant and pervasive."
"That tells you the extent of the problem. We don't make people speed," Chief Ramsey said. "It's not about money, it's about public safety."
The chief said that for the past three years, the District — with a population of about 500,000 — has seen as many as 16 traffic fatalities annually as a result of speeding.
"There aren't going to be many $30 tickets issued," Chief Ramsey said. "We're not going to nitpick someone who is going four, five, six or seven miles over."
Chief Ramsey noted that the District gets thousands of outside drivers from Maryland and Virginia every day, many of them breaking traffic laws.
Denver, with a population of more than 2.1 million, has come to rely on the extra revenue generated by the cameras.
Donna Mumford, an administrative support assistant for the city's police department, said the three roaming vans "do slow people down."
And from those who don't slow down, the city rakes in the fines, she said.
"Oh, you bet," Mrs. Mumford said. "I bet you they pull more money in than parking tickets."
In fact, Denver police have been issuing about 7,000 tickets a month, but recently have stepped up their efforts and are pushing to bring that number to more than 9,600, according to local media reports.
But Mark Maddox, a spokesman for Lockheed, said money is not the issue — it is safety.
"We sell safety solutions and results," Mr. Maddox said, noting that the District right now is the only city east of the Mississippi using its technology.
Mr. Maddox said all Lockheed does is provide the experience it has in operating and processing tickets. The cities that contract with them for their red light and photo radar camera services are responsible for picking locations of the cameras, determining the number of cameras and setting the operations of the programs.
"They call the shots. We're essentially the mechanism for the programs," Mr. Maddox said.
One difference between the cities that employ Lockheed's photo radar comes down to how the tickets are processed. Denver and the District both rely on Lockheed to send the tickets out to the speeder without any sort of quality control check by a police officer.
Mesa and Portland, however, do things a bit differently.
"Lockheed sends us the ticket and we process it through the courts," Mesa's Lt. Farago said.
Mr. Nelson said Portland's police officers are tied up in court because they, too, are required to appear and defend the issuance of a ticket.
In fact, he said, Oregon law requires Lockheed or any other contractor to have a police officer sign off on a ticket.
Chief Ramsey said he thinks the District's system with Lockheed is more efficient, and allows him to keep officers on the streets for community policing.
Lt. Farago said Mesa's system avoids the appearance of impropriety.
"They know that police are involved in it and it's not just a moneymaker," he said.

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