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Mooney revives bid to ban cameras at red lights in Md.

February 02, 2003|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

Sen. Alex X. Mooney is seeing red.

After his car was stolen last month, Mooney got two citations in the mail because the thief who took his car was caught on camera running two red lights.

Now Mooney has to go to court to prove himself innocent of the violations, which carry fines of $50 and $75.

"In the American justice system, a person is supposed to be innocent until proven guilty. This turns that on its head," he said.

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Mooney, R-Frederick/Washington, filed legislation this week to ban the red-light cameras in Maryland.

It's his second attempt at a statewide ban. The legislation died in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee last year.

This year, Mooney has a personal experience to bolster his argument. He's also on the committee handling the legislation, which will make it easier to lobby his colleagues.

But he said he still has an uphill battle because metropolitan counties rake in large sums of money from the fines.

There are no red light cameras in Washington County. The city of Hagerstown planned to install them about three years ago but never did, City Engineer Rodney Tissue said.

"I don't say that too loudly because having people think they're around isn't a bad thing," he said.

At the time, the city had a problem with drivers running red lights, he said. But when the signals were upgraded so they change depending on the traffic flow, the city saw a dramatic reduction in the problem, he said.

The city could no longer justify the cost of putting in the cameras, he said.

Recently, a Baltimore city judge publicly questioned whether Baltimore officials are "more focused on revenue than they are on safety" by using the cameras, Mooney said.

Mooney is setting up a Web site to collect complaints about the cameras. The address is www.endredlightcameras.com.

Mooney learned Friday that his stolen car has been found. A message relayed to him from police in Washington indicated the 1999 blue Saturn was involved in an accident in the Washington area. The driver was taken into custody, he said.

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