- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 12, 2002

D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp yesterday said the city should try to get a bigger share of the money taken in by the traffic cameras, but she, like other members of the D.C. Council, doesn't want to get rid of them.
She thinks the private company that runs the program appears to have too many money-making incentives.
"I think we need to look at and modify [the program]. We need to see if we're giving the company that runs the system too many incentives to make money off of it, rather than the intended incentive of slowing down speeding drivers," Mrs. Cropp, at-large Democrat, told editors and reporters at The Washington Times.
Mrs. Cropp said her daughter has received three tickets from being caught by the cameras.
"Running red lights is a big problem," she said. "But I also know that crime is increasing considerably in this city. I don't want police officers sitting on a corner watching cars go by, I want them in the community."
"We should look at this contract and not make it such a big incentive for people to make money off of [the tickets]."
Critics have argued that the cameras, popularly called "spy cameras" because they often snap photographs hidden from view, are intended to produce revenue rather than make the streets safer. Speeders caught by camera, for example, suffer no "points" lodged against their traffic record. Speeders cited by uniformed police officers receive "points" against their driving records.
Affiliated Computer Services Inc. of Dallas, which operates the District's red-light and photo-radar cameras, receives $32 for every red-light camera ticket that is paid and $29 for every speeding camera ticket paid. ACS took charge of the city's automated traffic enforcement program from Lockheed Martin in August.
Since the District began using red-light cameras in 1998, the city has collected more than $14.8 million in fines, and the company has reaped more than $5.6 million. Since the District began using photo-radar cameras in August, the city has collected more than $5.4 million in speeding fines, and the company more than $2.1 million.
Other D.C. Council members last week acknowledged problems with the red-light and speeding cameras. Council member Jack Evans told The Times, "I hate the program," and said he has been "getting nothing but complaints about it" from constituents.
"I have been caught up in it myself," said Mr. Evans, Ward 2 Democrat. "I think we might see some movement by the council or myself this year to draft legislation to repeal the program."
None of the other council members supported Mr. Evans' suggestion to repeal the program, but some said they were not happy with the amount of ACS' share of fines and the city's management of the automated traffic enforcement program.
Council member Kathy Patterson, Ward 3 Democrat, said the city needs to amend its contract with ACS. Mrs. Patterson, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, which oversees the police department, said the contract will be on the agenda at the committee's Feb. 25 meeting.
She and others have said they want the ACS contract to be changed to a flat annual fee rather than the current arrangement, which allows the company to take a portion from every ticket paid.
An ACS representative yesterday declined to comment and referred all questions to the Metropolitan Police Department.
D.C. police say the contract changes are in the works. The proposed flat-fee contract was sent to Mayor Anthony A. Williams last month, according to Executive Assistant Chief Terrance W. Gainer, the department's No. 2 official.
The District's photo-radar cameras, which have racked up more than 160,000 automated tickets since August, have been criticized by civil libertarians who say the city is using law enforcement to raise revenue and by some motorists who say the tickets are riddled with errors.
Supporters of the cameras, including police Chief Charles H. Ramsey, say the program is gradually slowing motorists and saving lives because it focuses on areas where most crashes, injuries and speeding complaints have occurred.
Data on the police department's Web site (www.mpdc.dc.gov) show that drivers are slowing down in certain areas. The most dramatic decrease is in the 35-mph zones. In August, the average speed there was 43 mph, while the current average has dipped to 40 mph, as of December.
Average speeds also have declined in 25- and 30-mph zones. The current average speed is 29 mph on streets with a 25 mph limit, down from 32 mph in August. On streets with a 30-mph limit, the average speed dipped from 35 mph to 33 mph.
Despite the decrease of average speeds on some roads, the number of fines being doled out by the cameras more than 40,000 each month since October has remained steady.

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