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Traffic cameras at center of debate

February 14, 2003|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

Public safety advocates battled it out with defenders of drivers' rights in a Maryland Senate committee Thursday.

Police officers and government officials argued that the state should allow the use of cameras to catch speeders because it will slow down traffic, protecting people's lives.

Drivers caught on film would face fines of up to $100.

Some members of the Judicial Proceedings Committee said speed cameras, just like red-light cameras already in use, are intrusive and too likely to nab innocent drivers.

Committee member Sen. Alex X. Mooney, R-Frederick/Washington, not only opposes the speed cameras but is sponsoring legislation to repeal use of red-light cameras.

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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.

He said no one should have to go to court to prove their innocence.

The proposed legislation would require drivers to give the name of the person who was driving their car at the time of the ticket.

"That doesn't seem right to me," said Sen. John A. Giannetti Jr., D-Anne Arundel/Prince George's.

Kimie Ranken, 39, of Havre de Grace, Md., testified that something is needed to slow down traffic in her neighborhood where speed bumps and stop signs have failed.

"The bottom line here is our children are at risk, citizens are at risk," she said.

Police said they don't have the personnel for speed enforcement.

When the Homeland Security Department puts the country on high-alert for a terrorist attack, police agencies are forced to take officers away from traffic enforcement, said Marcus Brown, who is in charge of special operations for the Baltimore City Police Department.

But police know problems exist. For example, police in Howard County testified they recently set up a radar camera near a school and recorded in a two-hour period 215 vehicles going at least 11 mph over the speed limit.

The committee did not make any decisions Thursday.

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