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Baltimore City Votes To End Current Speed Camera Contract

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BALTIMORE (WJZ)—Baltimore City’s speed camera system has hit a roadblock, but the mayor is determined to get it moving again. City leaders authorized big bucks to get out of a contract with the current vendor.

Mike Hellgren delves into the future of the troubled program.

We’re talking hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars approved Wednesday morning to get out of the contract.  Right now the system is not giving out tickets. The mayor wants a new, smaller camera network in place as soon as possible. Critics say enough is enough.

The road has been bumpy for Baltimore City’s speed camera system. Once the biggest in the country, it’s come under fire for handing out inaccurate tickets and poor oversight.

Outside vendors have run the cameras. And now, the Board of Estimates authorized paying the latest one in charge, Brekford, $600,000 to end its contract.

City leaders declined to say what was so wrong with the Brekford contract and why it had to end.

“We had a team of internal resources with the city working with Brekford staff every day,” said William Johnson, Department of Transportation director.

“At the end of the day, we weren’t able to develop a program that worked for Baltimore.  We will not resume the program until we can assure accuracy across the board,” said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. “We want a program that again puts safety over revenue.”

Councilwoman Mary Pat Clark wants to end the camera system–period–and beef up human traffic enforcement.

“We’re spending a lot of money for technology that’s not working for Baltimore City or for the people,” Clark said. “We trusted in the technology, and it failed us twice now. That’s enough of a warning.”

But the mayor doesn’t see it that way. She’s pushing for a new, smaller camera network–with no bounty system, as under previous contracts where the vendor got money for every ticket.

“My goal is to get a system that works, not to scrap it, because it’s too important to find ways to increase safety,” Rawlings-Blake.

Some Marylanders agree.

“I do think they are beneficial in certain areas like near schools,” one woman said. “There’s one right near Gywnns Falls Elementary, and people slow down to 25 when they’re driving past the school.”

“To some extent it’s good, but whether or not it’s perfect, I don’t think so,” another woman said.

“People are still going to do what they’re going to do whether the speed cameras are there or not.  Tickets–they can just pay them off,” a woman said.

“Some way they’re going to get you.  They’re going to get your money,” a man said.

The mayor has no timetable for when cameras will go back online, but she hopes it’s soon. And it won’t be the current cameras. The city will have to spend more money to buy new ones.

“You don’t cut your nose off to spite your face. We had an experience that did not work for Baltimore, but the program works,” Rawlings-Blake said.

The Department of Transportation intends to have a program that meets the highest technical standards.

“In any program like this, we’re going to start with a smaller, more manageable number of units, and then expand from there over time,” Johnson said.

The mayor claims between 2009 and 2012, the camera reduced speed-related crashes by 29 percent.

The city budgeted $15 million a year in speed camera revenue. The mayor says she has dealt with bigger budget shortfalls.

Under the Brekford contract, the company would receive $11.20 per every speed camera ticket.

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