- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 29, 2013

A slew of new traffic cameras expected to begin issuing tickets on Monday to drivers in the District will not go live as planned, according to the Metropolitan Police Department.

Last month, D.C. police unveiled 100 “next-generation” traffic cameras to target a growing number of motorist violations ranging from failure to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks to blocking the box.

The cameras were expected to issue warning tickets for a 30-day period and to begin issuing real tickets on Monday. However, not all of the cameras have apparently been active for a full 30 days, leading to a delay in their rollout.

“The warning period will be extended,” police spokeswoman Gwendolyn Crump said in an email statement Sunday. “We are still issuing warning tickets. Warning tickets will continue to be issued until every location has 30 days of tickets.”

Ms. Crump did not provide any estimate on when live tickets will begin to be issued. She also did not clarify whether each individual camera would begin to issue real tickets after it has been operating for 30 days or if all 100 cameras would delay ticketing until every new camera reaches the 30-day mark.

It was also unclear why some cameras have not been actively issuing warning tickets. The department announced the dates the cameras would issue warning tickets and the date they would begin issuing actual violation notices in a Nov. 22 press release.

Police have issued no public statement about the delay of the cameras nor does the department state on its website, where the operation of the new cameras is explained, that the devices are still only issuing warnings.

The lack of transparency from the police department is troubling to AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesman John B. Townsend II, who says the mixed messages may bewilder drivers.

“The benefit of that is it gives more people time to get familiar with the technology, to see the tickets,” Mr. Townsend said of the delay. “This may end up being more confusing for motorists.”

Mr. Townsend said he has also gotten complaints that not all the cameras appear to be posted at the locations the department lists on its website.

At a news conference held on the cameras last month, Assistant Police Chief Lamar Greene noted that some of the cameras are mobile and can be moved. It is unclear if the police department has moved any of the cameras or if some are not in place yet.

Once they do begin to issue real tickets, the new cameras will boost the number of automated traffic enforcement devices operated by the department to nearly 300. D.C. police began using traffic cameras in 1999 and already operated 197 other cameras that ticket drivers who speed or run red lights.

In addition to combating what police call “aggressive and dangerous driving habits,” the cameras will also generate income for the city through new fines ranging from $50 to $250 per violation.

The new cameras will be used to target five traffic issues.

Sixteen cameras trained on crosswalks will record drivers as pedestrians step into the crosswalks, and violations will be issued for drivers who fail to stop for the pedestrians when they have the right of way.

Twenty gridlock cameras will also capture the license plates of vehicles that fail to clear crosswalks or intersections before a traffic signal changes and block traffic.

Another 32 cameras will be placed at stop signs to ticket drivers who do not come to a complete stop, and 24 speed cameras will be placed at intersections.

Additionally, police are trying to curb the amount of commercial traffic in some neighborhoods and are installing eight cameras that will be able to detect oversize trucks that are not allowed to use small neighborhood streets.

Ms. Crump said the department is working to ensure that “all possible warning tickets are mailed prior to issuing live tickets.”

Speed and red-light camera tickets have been a boon for the city in past years. Revenue from the cameras jumped from $42.9 million in 2011 to $95.6 million in 2012, according to figures provided by the city.

Mr. Townsend said the city collected another $50 million through traffic enforcement in the first half of fiscal 2013.

According to the District’s fiscal 2014 budget, the city expects to collect an additional $31.7 million from these new traffic cameras this fiscal year.

• Andrea Noble can be reached at anoble@washingtontimes.com.

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