County Council poised to consider more, and mobile, speed cameras

… Work session will discuss Quirk bill, amendments …

By Steve Schuster

Posted 2/01/11

Motorists in Baltimore County are slowing down since the inception of a county speed camera program last August, according to a new Baltimore County Police Department analysis released Jan. 28.

But if the county wants to expand its speed camera program, police say officials should consider making the units mobile — so they can be moved among school zones — and also evaluate sites more closely to make sure the cameras are in areas where they are needed most.

The police study and recommendations came in preparation of a County Council work session Feb. 1, where council members were scheduled to consider a bill to lift a current cap of 15 school zone cameras in the county. The measure is expected to be voted on at the council’s next meeting, Monday, Feb. 7.

The bill was introduced by 1st District Council member Tom Quirk, who represents Catonsville and Arbutus.

“I don’t want speed cameras everywhere,” Quirk said, “only where there is a clear indication of speeding, aggressive driving and where parents are asking for them.”

Currently, speed cameras are placed at 15 school zones around the county: Dundalk elementary and middle schools; Arbutus Elementary; Lansdowne High; Woodlawn High; Woodlawn Middle/Woodmoor Elementary; Milford Mill Academy; Wellwood International School; Old Court Middle; Rodgers Forge Elementary/Dumbarton Middle; Halstead Academy; Padonia Elementary; Dulaney High; Parkville High; Hawthorne Elementary; and Sparrows Point Middle/Edgemere Elementary.

The police study says citations at those locations are down 51.5 percent overall since full implementation in August 2010.

“A 51 percent reduction is pretty dramatic,” said Quirk. “It’s pretty clear that the cameras alter drivers’ behavior. … It makes drivers more aware of their speed and their surroundings,” Quirk said.

Quirk’s bill would allow the county to have more than 15 cameras in play, but an amendment that was to be considered at the Feb. 1 work session, proposed by Council Chairman John Olszewski Sr., would allow the county to move the cameras from site to site, instead of keeping them in a fixed location.

That idea appears to have the support of police. The report issued last week said, “Mobile units would allow us to be more responsive to changing traffic safety problems.”

The report also said there is a demand for speed cameras around the county.

“Requests have been received from various parts of the county including Stoneleigh Elementary School, Deer Park Middle School, and (Baltimore) Highlands Elementary School.”

The report also suggests that camera sites should be evaluated periodically to determine where units are needed most.

“There are a number of camera sites that are generating very few violations. … Some could be moved to locations with greater problems,” the report stated.

Quirk said he would support Olszewksi’s amendment for mobile units.

County officials said that as of Nov. 30, 2010, the county took in $1.16 million in revenue — but remitted $949,582 to ACS, the vendor who runs the county speed camera program. On a $40 citation, that equates to less than $8 per ticket for the county, while ACS takes in the remaining $32 per ticket.

One council member opposed to any expansion of the speed camera program is 3rd District member Todd Huff, who represents Timonium and the northern part of the county. Huff has been an opponent of speed cameras, and said in light of the new police department analysis, “I have not changed my stance.”

Fifth District Councilman David Marks, who represents Towson and Perry Hall, said initially he was on the fence about Quirk’s bill.

But on Monday, Marks said he would vote against the measure if it includes the amendment that would allow the cameras to be mobile.

Towson Times

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