- The Washington Times - Friday, November 22, 2002

Residents trying to challenge automated traffic tickets at the D.C. Bureau of Traffic Adjudication yesterday complained that the city's electronic traffic enforcement hampers their appeals and fouls their record-keeping.

"You would not believe how inept this is," said Greg Campbell, a vehicle records specialist who was trying to convince traffic adjudication officials that his landlord had paid her speeding-camera ticket five months ago. "Is any human working for the DMV?"

Mr. Campbell makes a living by helping local residents resolve issues involving their license plates, vehicle titles, car registrations and other motor vehicle-related matters. He has been trying since the summer to get a copy of a speeding-camera ticket for his landlord.

"This automated traffic office and the new computer system [in the Department of Motor Vehicles] need to be reviewed. One system does not talk to the other one," said Mr. Campbell, 37.

Meanwhile, Arlington resident Hayes Getachew complained that he should not have received a red-light camera ticket for a recent rush-hour incident on New York Avenue NW.

Mr. Getachew said he was caught in a traffic backup in the middle of the intersection where New York Avenue meets New Jersey Avenue and Third Street when the light changed to red. When the traffic ahead began to move forward, he followed to get out of the intersection and the automated red-light camera took his picture.

"I hope I can convince someone down here that I'm right," Mr. Getachew said as he waited his turn at the Bureau of Traffic Adjudication. "If [the cameras] are about safety, then tickets like mine wouldn't be given out. They would go to people who really pose a danger."

The Washington Times reported Wednesday that the city had collected more than $20 million from 275,474 motorists who have paid speeding citations mailed to them since the automated traffic enforcement program began in August 2001.

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams and the D.C. Council decided last month to expand the speed-camera program by adding five more mobile units to the five in use, activating the photo-radar technology in some of its 39 red-light cameras, in part to help shrink the city's $323 million budget shortfall.

"Tickets are a revenue stream the city won't get rid of, and the system is designed to get your money whether you did it or not," said D.C. resident Jonah Davenport, 31, who was appealing a speeding ticket yesterday. He said the cameras have a dual role, "equally about money and safety."

One Maryland resident, Luther L. Nixon, said the District is discriminating against commuters from his state, alluding to the fact that 50 percent of all electronic traffic tickets go to Maryland drivers.

"The ticketing situation in this town stinks," said Mr. Nixon, 50. "The idea that the mayor would use these tickets as far as projecting the revenue situation is unreal."

In the year since the city implemented its automated program to catch speeders and red-light runners, residents have griped about problems regarding tickets, fines and the appeals process.

In January, traffic officials themselves complained about not having regular access to records on tickets issued to motorists by the red-light and photo-radar cameras.

The vendor for the camera programs, Dallas-based Affiliated Computer Services (ACS), was not only mailing the tickets and keeping the records but also was handling residents' requests for appeals hearings.

"ACS now sends us all of their ticket information in batches and updates the Destiny computer system 48 hours after the [ticket payments and hearing requests] are processed," said DMV spokeswoman Regina Williams.

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