Maryland lawmakers look to change radar camera incentives
Due to problems with Baltimore's radar cameras, which are designed to automatically level fines against speeders, Maryland lawmakers are trying to change the way the state contracts with camera operators, fining them for each citation issued in error.
In 2012, The Baltimore Sun reported that at least seven of the city’s 83 radar cameras were issuing tickets to drivers who were breaking no laws. Xerox State and Local Solutions, who own and operate the cameras, claimed to have found five cameras that were malfunctioning and shut them down. The Atlantic reports the city downplayed the problem, saying the cameras’ error rate for was “one-quarter of one percent.”
Although Baltimore’s contract with Xerox ended in 2012, a leaked audit of the cameras’ functionality brings into question the legitimacy of the program. According to The Baltimore Sun:
“Consultant URS Corp. evaluated the camera system as run by Xerox State and Local Solutions in 2012 and found an error rate of more than 10 percent — 40 times higher than city officials have claimed… The city issued roughly 700,000 speed camera tickets at $40 each in fiscal year 2012. If 10 percent were wrong, 70,000 would have wrongly been charged $2.8 million.”
The audit found 13 cameras with double-digit error rates, The Baltimore Sun reports. One camera was found to have an error rate of 58 percent.
The error rates and damage caused to public trust have spurred Maryland lawmakers to rethink current revenue sharing programs with radar camera vendors – a practice Governor Martin O’Malley referred to as a “bounty system.” The Atlantic reports Xerox was getting a percentage of revenue from every citation issued.
"It's outrageous. No, it's beyond outrageous," Baltimore City Councilman Carl Stokes told The Baltimore Sun . “We should have declared complete amnesty [after the audit came to light], that all of the tickets were null and void. If anybody paid, they should be paid back."
Maryland legislators, however, are not ready to abandon the revenue sharing system. According to The Atlantic, they want to tweak it. To remove the incentive for ticketing lawful drivers, pending legislation would require operators be fined $1,000 every time a citation is issued in error.
“This gives the vendors great incentive to make sure that they have done their homework,” Baltimore County Delegate and bill sponsor John Cardin told WAMU, a local radio station.