Baltimore City looks to county for effective speed camera management

BALTIMORE - Baltimore City has been struggling with its speed camera program for more than a year. It appears the solution could have been just outside of the city limit.

The city's speed camera program has been plagued with problems including inaccurate tickets sent to drivers, and cameras that don't work.

Baltimore County's speed camera program has never stopped operating, and it averages earnings of $2 million a year.

It doesn't take long to see the impact a speed camera has had along Cromwell Bridge road near Loch Raven High School in Baltimore County.

Car after car passes by traveling at or below the speed limit, thanks to, police say – a speed camera, which people who live in the area have clearly gotten used to.

That was supposed to happen across Baltimore City as well – but every one of the city's speed cameras is out of operation right now.

Baltimore City and County both used the "AES Xerox" company to run their speed camera programs when they started four years ago.

In 2012 the city began noticing erroneous tickets – and eventually fired Xerox, in favor of the much smaller Brekford Corporation.

The problems worsened.

On Wednesday, members of the Baltimore City Council got a briefing from the head of the Department of Transportation William Johnson.

But he said the City's agreement with Brekford prevented him from specifying what exactly went wrong.

He did say: "Overall the city paid Brekford $2.2 million for the cameras [and] camera hardware."

However that's hardware that's not being used – and is not likely to be used even when the city finds a new vendor.

The city also paid another $600,000 just to end its relationship with Brekford.

In Baltimore County, Xerox has remained the vendor throughout its speed camera program, and the county never bought its own cameras – Xerox owns them. County police run them.

"It means that the vendor is responsible for maintenance, it's responsible for making sure the machines are calibrated properly," said Elise Armacost, a spokeswoman for the Baltimore County Police Department.

As for preventing inaccurate tickets, a county police officer reviews each ticket generated by every speed camera every day.  If there's a problem, it's never mailed to the driver.

"Our policy is if there is any doubt you throw it out. So that we know that if someone gets a ticket through the speed camera program that it is a valid ticket," Armacost said.

In the city, people had been receiving those erroneous tickets in the mail.

Johnson said his department is looking at "best practices from other communities"  Those best practices could include dedicating a staff to review all tickets.

There is no timetable as of yet for Baltimore City to find a new vendor to run the speed camera program.

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