- The Washington Times - Friday, October 26, 2001

The District needs to change its photo-radar camera program to standardize speed limits throughout the city, improve enforcement and ensure revenue from speeding tickets is used for transportation, said two at-large members of the D.C. Council.

Council members Phil Mendelson, a Democrat, and Carol Schwartz, a Republican, are calling for more speed-limit signs to be posted in the city and for a standard speed limit for roads classified as highways. Mr. Mendelson also is seeking to have money collected from speeding tickets used for transportation instead of being deposited into the District's general fund.

"These changes in the law are necessary so residents will have confidence in the program," Mr. Mendelson said.

Metropolitan Police Department Chief Charles H. Ramsey and Sheryl Hobbs-Newman, director of the D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles, addressed the council members' concerns Monday during a hearing of the council's public works committee, which Mrs. Schwartz heads.

"The only change needed [in the photo-radar camera program] is adjusting the city's contract with Affiliated Computer Services by switching from a per-ticket-paid fee to fixed-monthly-fee contract," Chief Ramsey said. "We are already working on that agreement."

Affiliated Computer Services of Dallas operates the District's photo-radar cameras and receives $29 for each speeding ticket issued under its contract with the police department. 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.

The District has issued more than 31,000 tickets and collected more than $500,000 in fines since the program began Aug. 6.

Mr. Mendelson said the fact that speeding-ticket fines are deposited into the city's general fund gives the impression the the District is using the law-enforcement program to generate revenue.

"Our transportation division is in desperate need of funds. We operate at a $60 million deficit every year," the council member said. "Putting the money there makes more sense and rids the city of this money-grubbing perception."

Mr. Mendelson said the city should review its speed limits, adding that it is critical to legitimize the efficacy of the automated program. He said he has traveled different city roads that did not have enough or any speed-limit signs. In addition, some roads had speed-limit changes as many as three times in a three-mile stretch, he said.

Critics of the camera program have said it invades motorists' privacy and does not allow accused persons to face their accusers.

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