- The Washington Times - Friday, February 8, 2002

D.C. Council member Jack Evans yesterday said he opposes the city's photo-radar program to catch speeders and questions the Metropolitan Police Department's oversight of the private company that operates the cameras.
"I hate the program. I have been caught up in it myself, and I am getting nothing but complaints about it," 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," he told editors and reporters at The Washington Times.
Mr. Evans pointed out that legislation to repeal the automated traffic enforcement program would be passed on to the Public Works Committee, which would be required to hold public hearings on the matter.
"It would be interesting to see in committee people coming forward to make their cases for and against the cameras," he said.
The Washington Times has reported that the District has issued more than 160,000 automated speeding tickets and collected more than $5.3 million in fines since it began its photo-radar program in August.
Some drivers who have been caught by the cameras have complained about tickets based on blurry photographs, erroneous car-owner information and incorrect speed limits. Others have complained that the cameras invade drivers' privacy and deny them the opportunity to face their accusers.
Critics say the program is designed to generate revenue for the city.
City officials have defended the photo-radar cameras, saying they calm traffic and save lives.
"Every time they come up with the public safety angle, it leaves me scratching my head," Mr. Evans said yesterday.
Mr. Evans said he paid his speeding tickets, but like many other critics of the photo-radar cameras, he said he does not believe the program slows drivers. He said he would favor other traffic calming devices increasing yellow light times and installing rumble strips that are more effective and less expensive.
Mr. Evans was part of a unanimous voice vote in the council that approved the contract to begin the red-light camera enforcement in 1998.
But the council never voted on the photo-radar program, which was first administered by Lockheed Martin and now is run by Affiliated Computer Services of Dallas, which receives $29 of every fine paid. A request for $800,000 to implement the program was placed in the 2001 budget and approved by Congress in July.
The Times has reported that officials in the D.C. Bureau of Traffic Adjudication have complained that they do not have access to the speeding records, which have been maintained and processed by Affiliated Computer Services.
In December, D.C. police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said a renegotiation of Affiliated's contract from its per-fine basis to a flat fee would be completed by last month. But the new contract has not been signed and is being reviewed by the D.C. Office of Contract Procurement.
D.C. police said mistakes in the program account for only a small percentage of the total number of tickets issued.
The Times last week reported that a Southwest resident received a ticket based on a photograph in which the license plate number was obstructed. The private company apparently guessed at the number.
In November, the Metropolitan Police Department threw out several tickets issued along Malcolm X Avenue SE after The Times reported that the tickets displayed incorrect speed limits.
With the photo-radar technology, if a vehicle enters the device's radar beam above the speed-limit threshold, it sets off a camera that photographs the rear of the vehicle.
Affiliated Computer Services operates the photo-radar and red-light cameras. The company is responsible for processing the tickets for the District, reviewing the photos and mailing the tickets after obtaining information about the vehicle owner from the Department of Motor Vehicles.
The company not only helps decide who gets ticketed but also is the first party to get its hands on the mailed-in appeals of drivers, who have 30 days to file their challenge.


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