- The Washington Times - Friday, February 22, 2002

Montgomery County is looking to add photo-radar cameras to its electronic traffic-enforcement program mirroring the program running in the District.

Montgomery County Police Chief Charles A. Moose yesterday said he favors the cameras. He is waiting to see if a bill that would allow his force to use the speed cameras is approved in the Maryland General Assembly.

"I'm personally in favor of the photo-speed cameras," said Chief Moose on WTOP radio's "Ask the Chief" program. "If the legislative piece happens, we will certainly review how they [the speed cameras] should be used and put out a request for proposal."

Maryland lawmakers are considering a bill introduced by Delegate Salima S. Marriott in January. The bill, if enacted, would allow any jurisdiction in Maryland to use photo-radar to issue speeding citations. Only red-light cameras are allowed in Maryland currently.

Before coming to Montgomery County, Chief Moose was the chief of police in Portland, Ore., where the cameras have been in use for eight years. That operation utilizes marked vans, and the cameras take pictures of both the rear license plate and the driver's face.

Chief Moose said the cameras could help in neighborhoods with children walking back and forth to school where speeding is a major issue.

He said he understands the privacy-versus-public safety debate. But the chief said the cameras are effective in reducing traffic speeds if used properly and they free up more officers to patrol streets.

"As people receive the tickets, they do make decisions about their driving habits," he said. "With the cameras, you have a one-time cost, and they never call in sick, they don't have a union and they don't need a pension."

Mrs. Marriott, Baltimore Democrat, drafted her bill after she was contacted by Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, who wants speed cameras in that city. She said the District's program was a major influence.

"The administration of Baltimore has looked at the D.C. plan, and they think it is working effectively," Mrs. Marriott told The Washington Times recently.

Mrs. Marriott said she was surprised when delegates from Montgomery County told her they wanted to be included in the bill.

The D.C. Metropolitan Police Department has used photo-radar since August of last year. D.C. police said they have seen a 15 percent reduction in the average speed of cars caught by photo-radar cameras since the program started.

But photo-radar in the District has had its share of problems.

The Times reported last month that the private vendor running the radar cameras, Dallas-based Affiliated Computer Services Inc., not only takes part in deciding who gets ticketed, but is also the first to receive and process the appeals of area motorists.

Chief Moose said he has no intention of letting that happen in his jurisdiction.

"Certainly, we would always want to make that last call as to who gets the tickets," he said.

Mrs. Marriott's proposed bill is being reviewed in the Maryland House Committee on Commerce and Government Matters. A vote on the bill yesterday was put on hold so the committee could make additional changes.

Delegate John Wood, St. Mary's Democrat, chairs the committee. He told The Times the bill could come up for a vote by early March. He said the bill may be modified so that only Baltimore gets the cameras.

"We will decide in the next couple of weeks if it will be a statewide bill or something for Baltimore city," Mr. Wood said.

Mr. Wood is skeptical about the reasoning behind other jurisdictions wanting to use the cameras.

"I have some concerns as to whether this is being looked at as a safety issue or a money issue," he said.

Montgomery County officials predict that a photo-radar system could result in nearly 12,000 tickets per month and raise more than $10 million dollars in revenue annually.

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