Cameras go up at six city traffic signals

Motorists caught running red lights will be fined

February 12, 1999|By Gerard Shields | Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

Baltimore will begin operating cameras at six city intersections today to catch motorists running red lights.

The city joins Howard County in installing the video cameras, with hopes of reducing the number of red-light violators and traffic accidents in the city. Last week, Baltimore County announced its intent to start the program.

The cameras have been installed on Edmondson Avenue at Cooks Lane and Hilton Parkway, and on Northern Parkway at Falls Road and York Road. Cameras are also set up at Eastern Avenue and Kane Street and at Reisterstown Road and Patterson Avenue.

Motorists who run red lights at the designated intersections over the next two weeks will receive warnings. But beginning Feb. 26, violators will face a $75 fine.

The camera system provides 24-hour enforcement by combining a pole-mounted camera and underground sensors to take a picture of vehicles entering the intersection after the signal turns red.

Howard County became the first jurisdiction in the state to employ the cameras a year ago. Police credit the system with reducing the number of red-light violations in the county by more than half -- 53 percent.

"It's become an epidemic in our city and we have to slow it down," Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said yesterday in announcing the program.

Nationwide, police say, red-light violations in 1998 were the cause of 260,000 collisions resulting in 750 deaths, including 25 in Maryland. Last year, Baltimore police wrote 23,000 tickets to motorists running red lights, blamed for 300 city accidents.

Critics of the camera system have expressed concerns about privacy intrusion.

A spokesman for Lockheed Martin IMS, the company that the city has hired to install and maintain the camera system, said constitutional challenges to the technique have not been successful. Lockheed has installed the system in 21 cities or counties in North America.

In Howard County, 90 percent of the violations caught on camera were successfully prosecuted. The system results in two photographs being taken, one as the car enters the intersection and another of the car in the intersection. The photographs display the license plate of the vehicle, whose owner is sent a ticket.

Pub Date: 2/12/99

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