- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 23, 2001

The District issued more than 15,000 traffic citations in the first 10 days of a program that catches speeders using photo-radar cameras, Executive Assistant Police Chief Terrance W. Gainer said.
From Aug. 6-15, more than 9,000 citations were issued to speeders on highways and more than 6,000 to speeders in residential areas and school zones. Chief Gainer said the preliminary figures show the number of citations issued, not the number of photographs taken.
The 15,000 speeding tickets in 10 days put the city on a pace to issue about 45,000 citations a month — fewer than the 80,000 monthly tickets city officials anticipated before starting the automated program, but much more than the 10,000 tickets police issued during all of last year.
The tickets, which are mailed to the vehicles' owners, range from $30 to $200, depending on how much drivers exceed the threshold speed limit set by camera operators — at least 11 mph above the posted speed limit, police have said.
The District's contract with Lockheed Martin IMS, which makes and operates the cameras, projects that the speed cameras will add another $11 million per year to the general fund, but that figure could skyrocket if the citations issued average more than $40 a ticket.
If the 15,000 citations issued already average $100 per ticket, for example, the District's share of fines during the last 10 days would be more than $1 million.
Lockheed receives $29 for each ticket issued under its contract with the Metropolitan Police Department. Based on the figures provided by Chief Gainer, Lockheed stands to collect at least $435,000 for the 10-day period.
Citing widespread criticism of the program's revenue-generating aspect, Chief Gainer said the department wants to get beyond the money issue and focus on the cameras' safety effect. To do that, officials are considering a fixed-fee contract, instead of the per-ticket contract, he said.
A Lockheed spokesman was unavailable yesterday, but company officials have said they would prefer a fixed-fee contract. The Bethesda company has sold its traffic camera operations to Affiliated Computer Systems of Dallas, which assumes control next month.
Police and Lockheed sources said the photo-radar contract would be restructured to include the city's red-light camera contract, and an announcement on the deal is expected this fall.
The city's 39 red-light cameras, also operated by Lockheed, have generated more than 240,000 citations since the program began in August 1999. The city has collected more than $12 million from the program and expects more than $117 million by 2004. Lockheed, which gets $32.50 for every $75 red-light ticket, anticipates $44 million from the program by 2004.
"I really don't see how you can make the case this is about anything but money," said Richard Diamond, a spokesman for House Majority Leader Dick Armey, Texas Republican. Mr. Armey has criticized the technology, saying cameras violate drivers' privacy and are simply revenue makers for cities.
"It is a life safety issue," Chief Gainer said. "We are losing sight of what this is about reducing accidents, reducing deaths."
He said the photo-radar cameras already have reduced the number of city speeders, noting that more than 28,000 warning citations were issued during the program's trial period last month.
"When people know there are consequences out there, they commit less violations," the chief said.
Kevin P. Morison, director of corporate communications for the Metropolitan Police Department, said a proportionally greater number of warning citations were issued during the monthlong trial period because fewer cameras were in use.
Only about 50 to 60 percent of the cameras' photographs generate citations because malfunctions, fouled film, unreadable license plates or review officers' decisions cause questionable tickets to be thrown out, he said.
The cameras' threshold will be reduced when school starts next month, Chief Gainer said, adding that a driver exceeding the speed limit by 5 mph in a school zone is as dangerous as a highway driver exceeding the limit by 10 mph. Chief Gainer said 75 to 80 percent of the 60 areas monitored by the cameras are residential and school zones.
Lockheed processes the cameras' film, mails the tickets, maintains the devices and pays off-duty officers overtime to operate the $100,000 mobile cameras in five specially equipped Ford Crown Victorias. The vehicles rove around 60 speed-enforcement areas Monday through Saturday, 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. A stationary camera is located near Gallaudet University.
Lockheed officials requesting anonymity said police received the preliminary figures Wednesday of last week. The Washington Times has requested the numbers since Aug. 7, the second day of the program, but officials declined to divulge them.
Police officials say about 55 percent of fatalities are linked to speeding, citing $27.7 billion lost annually in wages, health care costs, law enforcement and insurance costs.


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