- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 16, 2001

Police departments in Maryland and Virginia routinely divulge statistical information about their automated law-enforcement efforts, but D.C. police refuse to say how many speeders its new photo-radar cameras have caught.
In addition, the District is the only jurisdiction in the region whose police do not perform quality-control checks before red-light-camera citations are issued.
The city's photo-radar program officially began Aug. 6, when five specially equipped Ford Crown Victorias started patrolling 60 speed-enforcement zones. Since then, D.C. police have rebuffed several inquiries about how many speeders its cameras have caught and how many traffic tickets have been issued.
Police are not releasing figures because they want to "put them in perspective," said Kevin P. Morison, director of corporate communications for the Metropolitan Police Department.
The District, which has used red-light cameras to catch red-light runners for two years, expects to make more than $11 million and issue 80,000 speeding tickets a month with its new photo-radar cameras. The city stands alone among its peers in not providing the public with information about its automat law enforcement.
"I can tell every day what's mailed out, and I get the statistics from Lockheed Martin [IMS]," said Michele Connolly, director of red-light-camera enforcement for the Prince George's County Police Department. "I don't think it's a secret."
Ms. Connolly said cameras last year photographed 61,076 potential red-light-running incidents, of which 24,124 led to tickets being issued. As of June this year, cameras photographed 60,274 possible incidents, with 23,287 tickets being issued, she said.
In Northern Virginia, where all the jurisdictions use red-light cameras under contract with Lockheed, the Fairfax County Police Department's nine cameras photographed more than 17,000 possible incidents as of last month, police spokeswoman Officer Julie Hersey said. Of those total pictures, 9,261 resulted in citations being issued.
Alexandria, which has one camera that rotates among several intersections, has photographed 67,315 potential red-light-running incidents since 1997 through June, said police spokeswoman Amy Bertsch. Of that total, 36,137 tickets were issued.
The District last released figures on its red-light-camera program in June during a meeting of the Washington Metropolitan Area Council of Governments. Police told policy-makers that 231,797 red-light-running tickets had been issued since the program began in August 1999. Its 39 cameras have generated more than $12 million in revenue for the District.
The Washington Times last month first reported that the District expects to collect more than $117 million by 2004 in its red-light-camera program.
Lockheed, which gets $32.50 from each $75 red-light ticket, is expected to net more than $44 million in the District's program. Lockheed gets $29 from each photo-radar ticket, which ranges from $30 for driving 1 mph to 10 mph over the threshold speed limit up to $200 for driving more than 26 mph over the threshold limit.
Lockheed spokesman Mark Maddox said the company cannot release information on the red-light and photo-radar camera programs it operates. "All the numbers are released by the clients, " he said.
The company's automated-camera systems photograph the license plates of potential violators. The license plate numbers are matched with vehicle registration information, and Lockheed issues tickets to the vehicles' owners. If the tickets are not paid within 30 days, fines can double and driving privileges can be revoked, but no points are assessed against a driver's record. Violations are handled as administrative, not enforcement, cases because the owners of the violating vehicles are punished, not the drivers.
Mr. Maddox, whose company is being sold for $825 million to Affiliated Computer Systems (ACS) of Dallas, said D.C. police began reviewing photo-radar tickets around the middle of last week, when film first started to be processed. Lockheed's sale is expected to close Sept. 30.
Mr. Morison, who went on vacation Monday, said it could be "two or three weeks" before any photo-radar data are provided to the public. He has referred callers to other sections of the police department, which have not returned calls seeking comment.
A police department source said Mr. Morison has not kept anyone outside of corporate communications informed about the progress of the red-light and photo-radar camera programs.
Unlike other police departments in the region, the District does not have an officer or police employee double-check and certify tickets before they are issued. Lockheed acts as the law-enforcement agency and does the final quality-control check.
Maryland and Virginia have laws requiring a police department employee to check the red-light-camera tickets before they are issued.
Ms. Connolly said having the police check the tickets adds a level of integrity to Prince George's County's camera program. "We don't want to mail a citation out to someone who didn't run a red light," she said. "We have the ultimate say. We do view it and approve it."
Officer Hersey said four police department employees in Fairfax County review tickets before they are issued.
Alexandria's Miss Bertsch said it's important her department review each photo that comes from Lockheed, noting that 5,703 false citations were stopped from being issued because of officer review.
"There has to be discretion. It's important that we are consistent," she said. "What it comes down to is that the officer who is reviewing it must send it out as if they were writing it themselves."

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