Red-light camera plan developing in city

Officials sign contract to place up to 60 more devices at intersections

`This is about public safety'

May 03, 2004|By Laurie Willis | Laurie Willis,SUN STAFF

Baltimore motorists who consider the city's red-light cameras a nuisance will soon have nearly a dozen more to gripe about.

And there are more to come after that.

Officials have signed a contract with Affiliated Computer Services Inc. to place up to 60 additional cameras at intersections across Baltimore, said City Transportation Director Al Foxx. The cameras will be installed in increments of about a dozen, with the first group expected to begin snapping pictures by July.

Although some people complain that the cameras are just a way for the city to make money, Foxx insists that they are intended to reduce traffic accidents.

"This is all about public safety," Foxx said. "It is our intent to make our streets as safe as possible for the citizens of Baltimore."

There are 47 red-light cameras in Baltimore. When they were introduced in 1999, the city was averaging more than 200 injuries at those intersections annually, Foxx said. Last year, the number of injuries at those intersections had dropped to 63.

"We attribute that decrease to the red-light cameras," Foxx said. "It is a very good program and enhances safety."

But there's no doubt that the cameras have also helped to fatten city coffers.

Each month about 13,000 tickets are issued to motorists, Foxx said. At $75 apiece, that's $11.7 million a year, although some fines are waived in court.

The camera locations are chosen based on police accident reports, community complaints and data gathered from the Transportation Department, Foxx said.

Some of the more dangerous intersections that have the cameras are Cold Spring Lane and Falls Road, North Avenue and Harford Road, and Northern Parkway and Falls Road. Some intersections have more than one camera.

Foxx said he wasn't sure exactly how many additional red-light cameras would be installed citywide, although the contract with ACS calls for up to 60 - which would more than double the current total. Efforts to reach ACS officials were unsuccessful.

The cameras are placed atop utility poles next to traffic signals, and they photograph the rears of automobiles that run red lights. Vehicle owners are identified by their license plate numbers, and tickets are mailed to their homes.

Red-light cameras, used in other jurisdictions in Maryland and throughout the country, are controversial.

City transportation spokesman David Brown said many motorists worry about an increase in their car insurance when they receive a red-light ticket in the mail.

But the red-light tickets do not affect car insurance rates, and the fine remains at $75 no matter when the ticket is paid, Brown said.

Red light cameras

Here are 11 intersections where city officials plan to have red-light cameras installed this summer:

Southbound York Road and Gittings Avenue

Southbound Charles Street and Lake Avenue

Eastbound Wabash Avenue and Belvedere Avenue

Southbound Reisterstown Road and Druid Park Drive

Northbound South Caton Avenue and Benson Avenue

Southbound South Caton Avenue and Benson Avenue

Eastbound Wilkens Avenue and Pine Heights Avenue

Northbound Erdman Avenue and North Macon Street

Westbound North Macon Street and Erdman Avenue

Southbound Potee Street and Talbot Street

Westbound Gwynns Falls Parkway and Garrison Boulevard SOURCE: Baltimore Transportation Department

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