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City Hall Hearing Questions Future Of Baltimore’s Traffic Cameras

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Derek Valcourt 370x278 Derek Valcourt
Derek Valcourt began working at WJZ in September 2002. His first major...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ)—An investigative hearing was held at City Hall on Wednesday, aimed at trying to get to the bottom of what went wrong with Baltimore’s problem-plagued speed cameras and red light cameras and what’s being done about it.

Derek Valcourt has more on the hearing and the future of traffic cameras in Baltimore.

Now city leaders say they want to learn from the mistakes these made and try it all over again–most likely with an all new camera system.

When investigations revealed faulty cameras giving bogus tickets, Baltimore’s entire speed camera system was shut down, the contract with its first vendor Xerox was terminated, and a new vendor, Brekford, was brought in for millions of dollars to try to salvage the camera program. That didn’t work either.

City Councilman Brandon Scott led a special inquiry into the problems Wednesday and called for transparency, asking for the release of findings from a taxpayer funded independent audit of the camera system.

“If you have an audit and you can release at least some of the information to the public, I think it’s a good thing,” Scott said.

But the deputy city solicitor says some of the work done by the independent audit company was attorney privileged work, and releasing it would open the city up to potential lawsuits from the vendors they’ve already negotiated settlements with.

“In order for us to move forward, there were agreements made and we will release or make public information up to the limits of those agreements, and those agreements allow us to continue to move forward and seek a program that works,” Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said.

For now all of the dozens of city speed cameras and red light cameras, millions of dollars’ worth of equipment, just sit on the roadside unused. Its fate is unknown.

Those cameras may or may not be used again when the city starts requesting proposals from new camera vendors later this year.

But starting over is an idea some City Council members and some drivers don’t like.

“I think they should scrap it.  I don’t think we should have the speed cameras, and the previous history and the kickbacks that the company that provided them in the past is all very sketchy and we should not do them,” said Carrie Barth, driver.

The city says they have learned some lessons in all of this: Red light and speed camera programs need better oversight, and they say the city should no longer pay the company that operates the cameras a fee for every ticket given out.

The city says its own studies showed those cameras did reduce crashes in the years that the cameras were in operation.

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