- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 24, 2004

For the third consecutive month, the District has collected more than $2 million in speed-camera citations, bringing to more than $51 million the total revenue generated by the program since its 2001 inception.

The city collected $2,155,211 last month, after a record-setting month in April, when officials collected $2,324,888 in fines. More than $10 million has been generated by the program so far this year.

The cameras generating the most revenue for the District are on the limited stretches of highways under city jurisdiction, such as the outbound lanes of New York Avenue and the cross-town section of the Anacostia Parkway.

Police officials said the high-revenue zones are not being singled out for speed enforcement. The six cruisers equipped with the cameras rotate among about 20 zones monthly, Kevin Morison, spokesman for Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey, said. The list of zones in the rotation is regularly assessed and altered based on police observations and residents’ requests, he said.

“We’ll generally be at a spot until [speeding] has leveled off and stabilized in the area,” Mr. Morison said yesterday.

Police have monitored the 2800 block of New York Avenue NE — the program’s most profitable zone in March, April and May — since January.

The zone — a six-lane, divided highway between two service roads — produced 10,868 speeding citations, more than 17 percent of issued citations in May, according to police statistics. At the program’s minimum fine — $30 — the zone generated at least $326,040 that month.

The District has seven speed cameras — one stationary camera mounted on a pole and six mounted in cruisers.

Mayor Anthony A. Williams’ $6.2 billion budget for fiscal 2005, approved by the D.C. Council, adds six more cruisers equipped with photo-radar cameras. Officials expect the new cameras and cruisers, which will cost $6.4 million, to generate $7.2 million more annually in ticket revenue.

Police and city officials have justified the much-maligned program by citing “safer streets” as the reason for the program’s expansion.

“Among other things, the numbers show that the percentage of aggressive speeders remains at a record-low 4.7 percent, compared with 25 [percent] to 30 percent at the beginning of the program,” Mr. Morison said. “So progress continues.”

However, police say there are no tangible statistics showing that the cameras have reduced the number of traffic accidents, traffic fatalities or improved safety on city streets. Mr. Morison said the police are working with the Department of Transportation to automate the most recent crash data to better gauge the impact of the cameras on particular areas.

Detractors of the system say that merely photographing violators does little to deter them from speeding, because they often are not aware that they have been captured and continue to speed excessively, endangering other drivers.

Mr. Morison concurred that the program likely will have little effect on egregious speeders.

“Unfortunately, for someone traveling 155 miles per hour, I don’t [think] getting a ticket in the mail is going to change them,” Mr. Morison said. “The good news is that we’re changing the behavior of people who think they can travel 20 to 30 miles per hour over the speed limit.”

Strict pursuit laws do not allow officers to chase speeders, said Lt. Patrick Burke, who heads the police department’s traffic-safety division. But a “speed-blitz” program — in which a crew of about five officers set up a checkpoint in an area with a high volume of speeding motorists — largely reduces the number of dangerous speeders that officers in camera-equipped cruisers are unable to pursue, Lt. Burke said.

“We went from 75 arrests of [excessive speeders] when the program began in 2000 to 452 arrests last year, primarily due to the [speed-blitz] program,” Lt. Burke said.

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