- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 22, 2001

The District has issued speeding fines against motorists caught by photo-radar cameras on certain roads in Southeast, but the speed limits stated on the tickets are lower than those posted on the streets.
For instance, delivery drivers for Eastover Auto Supply in Prince George's County recently received two speeding tickets for exceeding a 25 mph speed limit on Malcolm X Avenue SE by 16 mph. But the speed limit posted on the road is 30 mph. The 5 mph discrepancy cost them $50 per ticket.
"The whole thing seems suspicious to me," said William Foreman, owner of Eastover Auto. "If my guys were speeding, and most of them are retired seniors, those tickets should only have been $50, not $100."
Mr. Foreman, 46, has paid one fine but has opted to fight three others since examining the road's speed-limit signs.
Robert Bouchard of McLean was commuting on the Southeast/Southwest Freeway in mid-October when a photo-radar camera registered him going 54 mph in a 35 mph zone. But the freeway's posted speed limit where he was caught was 40 mph.
Even if the correct limit were printed on his ticket, his fine would not change. But "I think any errors on a ticket should make it voidable," said Mr. Bouchard, 72.
D.C. police spokesman Kevin P. Morison yesterday would not comment on whether Mr. Foreman's and Mr. Bouchard's tickets would be voided.
"The Metropolitan Police Department is checking the limits on those two roads, and if there are errors, we will address them as we have with other tickets," Mr. Morison said.
On Monday, The Washington Times reported that George Brill, 58, owner of Brill Plumbing and Heating in Germantown, received an automated ticket for exceeding the speed limit on Reno Road NW by 2 mph. D.C. police later voided Mr. Brill's ticket.
"In the case with Mr. Brill, the officer did not properly set the threshold," Mr. Morison said.
Metropolitan Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey had said the department was "not going to nitpick someone who is going four, five, six or seven miles over" the speed limit.
Errors in the District's automated ticketing systems could lay the basis for a court challenge similar to that in San Diego, where a judge in September threw out nearly 300 red-light camera tickets because of "untrustworthy" enforcement practices by the company managing the cameras.
Lockheed-Martin IMS operated San Diego's cameras and received $70 for each red-light ticket. The company, which also managed the District's automated enforcement program, was sold to Dallas-based Affiliated Computer Services on Aug. 24.
Since the automated traffic program began on Aug. 6, the District's cameras have generated 75,575 tickets and more than $1.4 million with 20,625 motorists paying the fines. An estimated $848,000 of the fines collected has gone to the city, and almost $600,000 to ACS, which charges the city a fee of $29 per photo-radar ticket paid and $32.50 for each red-light ticket.
The program is managed in part by ACS with D.C. police officers monitoring the five mobile cameras in the city on overtime paid by ACS.
Tickets are checked for errors by D.C. police officers and ACS employees before they are mailed, said Mr. Morison.
Chief Ramsey and other city officials repeatedly have said the photo-radar cameras are in place to enhance public safety in the city, not the District's coffers.
The Times has received more than 60 telephone calls and e-mail messages from area motorists, lawyers and police officers who say the automated speeding enforcement program is unfair. Only one D.C. resident has contacted The Times with a favorable position on the cameras.
Retired D.C. police Officer Norman Clemens, 51, said the cameras "can still be fallible," despite the monitoring and review by officers. He worked four years as a radar specialist during his 20-year career with D.C. police.
"A lot of factors go into writing a ticket. Speeding in school zones or bad weather are automatic write-ups," Mr. Clemens said.
He said other factors were under his discretion, such as if a driver was speeding but not going fast enough to cause a serious threat, if a motorist was traveling down a steep hill or if he just wanted to issue a warning that day.
"But [these cameras] don't do any of that," Mr. Clemens said.


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