Revenue slows for Prince George’s speed camera program -- Gazette.Net



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This story was corrected at 9:15 a.m. March 12. An explanation follows the story.

Revenues from Prince George’s County’s speed cameras are falling short of projections — a problem described as a Catch-22 since the loss of money from citations is a direct result of fewer speeders.

The 72 mobile cameras — which are occasionally moved between 143 county locations — first were projected to bring in roughly $28 million in gross revenue for fiscal 2013 but are now expected to bring in $13 million by the end of the fiscal year, according to officials in the county’s executive’s office. The fiscal year ends June 30.

“It’s one of those Catch-22s. We’re happy there are fewer violations. It means people are slowing down, which is the intent of the program. But now there is a secondary revenue issue that creates some challenges,” said Thomas Himler, the county’s deputy chief administrative officer for budget, finance and administration.

Speed cameras are devices that take pictures of the license plates of vehicles traveling 12 mph or more faster than the speed limit, and owners of the vehicles are mailed a citation for $40.

In September, 50,696 citations were mailed that were generated from automated speed cameras, which police described as “a high month.” In January, 26,893 violations were mailed out, a nearly 50 percent drop in violations, said Maj. Robert Liberati, who heads the police department’s speed camera program.

The county is projecting to have just less than $10 million in gross revenue for fiscal 2014 from the cameras, Himler said. When the program first rolled out in August 2011, fiscal 2012 netted a gross revenue of $8 million, and that was before all the cameras were in place.

Revenue from speed cameras goes directly to public safety funding, as outlined in state law.

“The rationale is that obviously there’s a correlation between (the police and fire department’s) respective duties and trying to reduce accidents and speeding,” Himler said.

Funding to police is used mainly for traffic enforcement programs such as DUI checkpoint operations. Himler said the fire department has put the revenue toward making sure stations have adequate staffing levels.

Liberati said county statistics indicate the need for a speed camera program, which he said is working given the reduction in traffic fatalities citations.

In 2011, there were 105 traffic fatalities in Prince George’s, the highest number in the state with Baltimore County being second with 75. While still the highest last year, Prince George’s tallied a drop to 82 when statewide statistics rose from 488 in 2011 to 500 in 2012.

“People are slowing down everywhere because they don’t know where these cameras are. It’s starting to change the driver habits,” he said.

Ron Weiss, a board member of the Tantallon Citizens Association in Fort Washington, said the program has been effective. He said when a speed camera near Potomac Landing Elementary School was removed in October, there was a “chaotic mixture” of vehicles passing by and stopping to drop off children, raising concerns among residents.

“As a result, the speed camera is back in place,” Weiss said.

Correction: Ron Weiss is a board member of the Tantallon Citizens Association.

djgross@gazette.net