Howard County says goodbye to film as it plans for digital red-light cameras

March 12, 2004|By Gus G. Sentementes | Gus G. Sentementes,SUN STAFF

Six years ago, Howard County was the first in the state to use film-based red-light cameras to identify and fine scofflaws who blow through traffic lights.

The state's first digital camera is in operation at Snowden River Parkway and McGaw Road in Columbia. Howard is leading a push to upgrade red-light cameras from wet-film to digital technology by the end of this year, police said.

Two key reasons for the switch to digital: better clarity of photographic images and more efficient processing, according to Lt. Tim Black, a Howard County police officer.

The system uses a laser to track vehicles moving through the intersection and shoots four photographs, two with close-ups of the car's license plate.

The wet-film cameras require several steps before a citation can be mailed. Workers must collect film, have it processed and convert photos to digital images.

But with the digital system, there is no need to send workers to pull film or wait for photo processing. The digital cameras transmit photos through a secure data line directly to officials.

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