- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 21, 2002

If the District's speed cameras are really about making neighborhoods safer, then bring them to Hilltop Terrace, say residents of the Southeast neighborhood.
D.C. Council member David A. Catania, at-large Republican, joined residents at a press conference yesterday to complain that traffic in the neighborhood is "out of control."
Residents said they want photo-radar cameras to help cut down on the number of cars speeding through a small neighborhood that has neither speed bumps nor traffic lights. Much of the speeding, residents say, is related to late-night criminal activity.
"We have had cars speeding down the street, chasing children and jumping our sidewalks," said Jacqueline Carter, one of about a dozen homeowners who joined Mr. Catania for a sidewalk press conference at Hilltop Terrace and 46th Street SE.
"With vandalism, shootings and weapons being discarded here, we at least want the traffic calmed," the 47-year-old homeowner said.
A representative of Affiliated Computer Services Inc. (ACS), the Dallas-based firm that operates the District's speed-camera and traffic-light-camera programs, told the group that the presence of a police-manned speed-camera unit would have several benefits for the neighborhood.
"Cameras are only going to eliminate the speeding, but the [speed-camera] cars have police officers in them, so you also get a police presence," said Patrick Lanigan, the firm's East Coast regional manager.
Mr. Lanigan, who was asked to attend the press conference by Mr. Catania, said ACS will conduct an eight-hour traffic study tomorrow to determine if cameras are needed in the area.
"We're going to sit on one of the streets and find out how many violations we get," Mr. Lanigan said. He said that if there are more than 20 violations, the city may want to place a camera car there.
"As far as we're concerned, if there is a need, we want to put the camera there," he said.
But D.C. police spokesman Kevin Morison said several more factors will have to be looked at to determine if a camera will be of use on Hilltop Terrace.
"Our first criterion is previous history of speeding-related crashes in particular, fatal crashes at a location," Mr. Morison said.
He said other factors that come into play are the nature and extent of the speeding problem; the likelihood that photo-radar cameras could have an effect on the problem; and whether the proposed camera location would be safe.
"But, we are not at all certain that this site would necessarily be a suitable location for regular photo-radar deployment," he said.
The District operates five mobile speed cameras and one stationary camera near Gallaudet University on Florida Avenue.
Since expanding the number of speed cameras in the city in August, D.C. officials have emphasized the program's safety benefits for neighborhoods, dismissing critics who say the program is little more than an elaborate speed trap designed to shake down commuters for millions in fine revenue.
ACS has collected $12.2 million and issued 279,134 tickets since the program started. About $7.4 million of that revenue has gone to the District.
D.C. police said the cameras monitor neighborhood streets 75 percent of the time and monitor the city's highways only 25 percent of the time.
House Majority Leader Dick Armey, Texas Republican, says the District is trying to institute a backdoor commuter tax by targeting major roads and trapping Maryland and Virginia drivers on their way to and from work.
Rep. Constance A. Morella, the Maryland Republican who heads the House Government Reform subcommittee on the District, said she is concerned about statistics that show Maryland drivers get almost half of all the speed-camera tickets issued.
Subcommittee spokesman Rob White said his office has asked D.C. police to explain the criteria behind the placement of the cameras.
Mr. Catania said he has had trouble getting D.C. police to move the cameras to neighborhoods that want them.
"We fought for a long time to get a camera on South Dakota Avenue in the Lamond-Riggs neighborhood," Mr. Catania said.
He said residents in the Northeast neighborhood were desperate to slow traffic near the local library, where they say a woman was killed by a speeder while she was crossing the street.
"We are trying to be as responsive as we can, but the camera cars are in short supply," Mr. Catania said.


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