Police, School Buses Cited by Speed Cameras, Too
Since the program began, 455 drivers have received two or more citations.
Nearly 8,600 speed camera citations have been issued this year, including three to fire vehicles, four to other county-owned vehicles and 23 to police vehicles – from Howard and other counties, according to officials.
Emergency vehicles do not have to pay citations if they are issued during an emergency operation. Otherwise, according to police, they pay the $40 fine, just like civilians.
Citations have also been issued to school and MTA buses, Speed Camera Program Administrator Fred Von Briesen said at Wednesday evening’s meeting of the Howard County Police Citizens Advisory Council (CAC).
Von Briesen took members of the CAC closer than most people will get to the county’s two mobile speed camera units -- vans equipped with cameras, computers and speed detection lasers.
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Speed camera operators joined the group outside of the Howard County Police Department Northern District Headquarters as they got an inside look at the two vans, covered with large, colorful decals that read “Give Kids a Brake, Howard County Speed Camera Program.”
“So we get less calls for suspicious vehicles,” when the white vans are parked outside schools, Von Briesen said. He said the police department is also considering using a portable speed camera device -- a battery-powered box that can be used at locations that are too narrow to accommodate the vans.
The cameras are in use in school zones between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m., Monday – Friday.
On typical school days, both vans are on the street, monitoring drivers. But during certain times of the year – such as spring or winter break – only one van has been on the road, or two vans have been out, but not for a full 14-hour day.
In areas where the vans are parked more often, Von Briesen said, records show vehicles tend to slow down after a few weeks.
But, he said when the vans return to those same areas after a brief reprieve, “I’m always surprised at how quickly those [high] numbers return.”
Since the program began, Von Briesen said there have been 455 repeat offenders. Of those, one person had five citations, nine people had four citations, 15 had three citations and the remainder had been cited twice.
So far, he said, the fastest vehicle cited was traveling 82 mph in a 40 mph zone.
Of 12 contested tickets, two have been dismissed, Von Briesen said, not because of questions about the accuracy of the citation, but because of “the judge’s interpretation of the law.”
Once a citation is issued, police department personnel manage most of the operations, including reviewing and approving citations. About 2 percent of citations that are printed are discarded because the photographs do not conform to the departments’ standards.
Since violators have 45 days to pay a citation, it’s difficult give an accurate, up-to-date account of collection rates, but, Von Briesen said, by the end of February, more than 90 percent of all citations issued since November had been paid.
The $285,000 collected from citations has not yet paid for the program's start-up and operational costs, Von Briesen said.
He said evaluations of the program, including its cost and effectiveness, are ongoing and that he will submit a report to the county council in 2013.
"The decision on whether we cancel or continue the program comes from the police chief and the [county] council."
With the head of the speed camera program so close, it wasn't a surprise when the question came up: "How do you beat the system?"
"You don't," Von Briesen said. "You don't speed."
Have you received a speed camera citation? Did you contest it? Let us know in the comments.