- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 20, 2003

D.C. police have tossed out 33 speeding tickets issued by an automated traffic-enforcement camera because the camera’s operator entered the wrong address into an onboard computer.

The citations were issued between midnight and 4 a.m. on July 26 in the southbound lanes of the 3100 block of North Capitol Street. Police officials said the drivers who were ticketed were speeding, but officials voided the tickets because they bore an incorrect address.

Officials said the police officer who was operating the camera transposed two numbers while inputting a code, which misidentified the patrol area as the 3500 block of Park Place NW.

“It appears to be a simple human error,” said Kevin Morison, director of corporate communications for the Metropolitan Police Department. “The photographs indicated the motorists were speeding on North Capitol Street, and the tickets indicated they were speeding on Park Road.”

Mr. Morison said the error was unfortunate but that it did not indicate a flaw with the technology. He added that internal controls uncovered the problem.

He could not say how much the fines totaled but that police had instructed the city’s Bureau of Traffic Adjudication to put an administrative hold on the tickets, some of which already had been mailed.

Motorists who were ticketed will receive a letter instructing them to disregard the citations.

The error marks the second time in 10 months that police have voided citations in its automated traffic-enforcement program, which has been criticized for being less about safety and more about generating revenue for the District.

In October, police officials asked the Bureau of Traffic Adjudication to dismiss tickets or reimburse drivers for more than 2,400 erroneous photo-radar citations, amounting to at least $72,000 in fines. Police said those mistakes were the result of changes in speed limits that had not been recorded in the patrol system.

From the beginning of the year through June, the most recent month for which statistics were available, the city had collected $7,566,860 in fines from speeding cameras. Since the program began in August 2001, the city had collected $30,331,113 in automated speeding fines.

The city has issued 587,434 automated speeding citations, of which 408,191 have been paid.

More than 77 percent of the citations issued in June were for vehicles registered outside the District, police statistics show.

From their introduction in August 1999 to June this year, the District’s automated red-light cameras generated $21,974,285 in fines.

The city has issued 377,743 red-light citations, of which 253,911 have been paid.

Police officials say automated enforcement has slowed traffic and curbed red-light violations.

Under the city’s automated enforcement system, citations are issued to vehicle owners based on photographs of the rear license plates.

Motorists who receive tickets have the right to pay the fines or submit requests for hearings.

Patrol cars mounted with the cameras are deployed in 65 zones around the city.

On July 14, police began using the cameras during overnight hours, from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m., Monday through Saturday. Before that, the cameras had been used only between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m.

In June, a federal judge threw out a lawsuit filed against the city in D.C. Superior Court last year by two lawyers who argued that the traffic-camera system violates constitutional guarantees to due process.



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