- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 8, 2001

On the first day of the District's deployment of a radar system designed to nab speeders by the bushel, Master Patrol Officer R.J. Brady sat in the air-conditioned comfort of an unmarked Ford Crown Victoria and watched in excitement as the high-tech camera whirred.

"See? See?" he said, pointing out the rapidly clicking camera to an onlooking reporter. Over the course of the Monday evening rush hour on MacArthur Boulevard in the District, Officer Brady's camera flashed more than 200 times each flash representing a speeding ticket of $30 to $200 that soon would be on its way to the owner of the offending vehicle.

Sometimes the camera would go silent for as long as a minute, as traffic ebbed and flowed in the 5700 block of MacArthur. At other times, the device clicked off photos in rapid succession, capturing four or five vehicles in little more than a second.

Every 30 minutes or so, Officer Brady checked readings on the machine to make sure the calibrations were correct.

"I have to document all of the calibrations for the device, my location and time I arrived," he said.

Officer Brady and the other D.C. police officers assigned to man the units are earning overtime, as provided for under the terms of the contract between the city and Lockheed Martin IMS, which operates the cameras and processes the tickets.

The Bethesda-based company, which earns a flat fee of $29 for every speeding ticket issued by the electronic cameras, picked up the costs for the units — one fixed and five mobile — and the overtime tabs for the officers.

The cars cost an estimated $100,000 apiece, but both Lockheed and the District expect the cameras to more than pay for themselves. According to the contract between the city and Lockheed, the District's share of the fines is projected to hit $11 million annually.

But local police officials say the revenue isn't the driving force behind the deployment of the six new radar cameras.

Executive Assistant Chief Terrance W. Gainer said yesterday in an interview on CNN that police would like to assess points to the driving records of motorists snagged by the city's new automated photo radar cameras. The City Council voted against such a plan two years ago.

Kevin P. Morison, a police spokesman, said Chief Gainer was responding to criticism that the cameras had less to do with public safety than with improving the city's bottom line.

"He was saying that in an ideal world, points might be assessed," Mr. Morison said. "But we can't assess points. There has never been a plan to, even before the council passed a law."

The speeding cameras represent the latest expansion of the District's efforts in electronic traffic enforcement. Since August 1999, the District has collected more than $12 million in fines from 230,000 violations detected by the 39 red-light cameras operated by Lockheed.

The city's contract with Lockheed projects that fines generated by red-light cameras will top $161 million by 2004, with $44 million of that going to Lockheed.

Mr. Morison said police are skeptical about the projected revenue figures for both the 39 red-light cameras and the six speeding cameras. "If we don't see a dramatic reduction in speeding, then we haven't achieved our goals of reducing speeding-related accidents or deaths," Mr. Morison said.

Mr. Morison predicted the speeding cameras, like the red-light cameras, would reduce traffic accidents and fatalities. He said an average of 55 percent of traffic fatalities in the District were related to excessive speed.

Justin McNaull, a spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic, said assessing points "poses some real challenges" because it would "raise the burden of proof" for the government to identify the driver of each vehicle.

"You move from a simple civil infraction to a traffic violation," said Mr. McNaull, a former Arlington County Police officer. "That changes the dynamics because it affects people's insurance."

A spokesman for House Majority Leader Dick Armey, Texas Republican and an outspoken critic of the automated cameras, said assessing points to a driving record as a result of a camera-generated speeding ticket would be a further invasion of an individual's privacy.

"The District has no way of knowing who was actually driving," spokesman Richard Diamond said.

Cameras in the District snap a photo only of the rear of the vehicle. Some localities in California, however, have two cameras: one taking a photo of the vehicle's rear tag, the other shooting a photo of the driver's face. Those violators can be assessed points to their records.

Mark Maddox, a spokesman for Lockheed, said neither his company nor the city was prepared to release statistics on how many speeders were snagged on the first day of the cameras' use.

"We are trying to get some numbers that can be put in perspective," Mr. Maddox said. Those numbers may come early next week, he said.

Speeders should expect to receive tickets a week or two after the infractions.

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