- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The District’s revenue from traffic cameras took a severe hit last year, in part because the police department has had trouble maintaining the cameras, according to city officials.

The police department’s automated traffic enforcement cameras raked in $74.8 million in fines in fiscal 2013, but the figure dropped to $30.6 million in fiscal 2014, according to data provided by the District’s Office of the Chief Financial Officer.

The Metropolitan Police Department, which has expanded the program over the last year to include more than 300 cameras, acknowledged the difficulties Tuesday.

“During periods of extreme cold and snow last winter, there were instances when we could not change the batteries because they were not accessible, or the temperature affected the charge,” said Assistant Chief Lamar Greene. “We have taken additional steps to enhance internal temperature controls since last winter alleviating this problem.”

The notable decline in revenue was a hot topic of conversation between D.C. Council members and Mayor Muriel Bowser on Tuesday, as officials discussed budget concerns in the coming fiscal year.

D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson blamed the decline in traffic camera revenue on failed maintenance and said problems started after the police department assumed responsibility for the care of the city’s red-light and speeding cameras, according to The Washington Post.

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Meanwhile, Ms. Bowser said the issue also could stem from a failure to activate some of the cameras.

“I think that they were delayed in being installed or in turned on when they should have been,” Ms. Bowser told The Post. “I don’t know the details of which, or really, why. But I do know that it has created a shortfall.”

The Office of the Chief Financial Officer is estimating a budget shortfall of $83.4 million this fiscal year — a figure that could balloon by another $47 million if the city approves a settlement in an ongoing dispute over overtime pay to firefighters.

MPD’s traffic enforcement cameras have proven to be a huge financial windfall for the District, as the police department has rapidly increased the number and type of cameras that are used to issue tickets to drivers across the city.

As of Tuesday, MPD listed the locations of 338 traffic cameras on its website, including 190 speeding cameras and 48 red-light cameras. An array of other cameras are meant to capture images and license plate numbers of drivers involved in offenses such as failure to stop at pedestrian crosswalks or stop signs. The cameras generate income for the city through fines ranging from $50 to $250 per violation.

Automated traffic enforcement revenues for this fiscal year, which began in October, are up to $13.1 million, according to the Office of the Chief Financial Officer.

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The police department said problems with maintaining the cameras might not be the only reason revenue from fines has decreased, citing increased compliance with traffic laws as a potential factor.

“It should be noted that speed limits on some streets have been raised and more motorists are obeying the law and have begun to slow down,” Chief Greene said.

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

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