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Hagerstown moves toward using speed-enforcement cameras

December 20, 2011|By KATE S. ALEXANDER | kate.alexander@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN — The Hagerstown City Council opened the door Tuesday night to city police using cameras to enforce speed limits in school zones.

The five-member council unanimously approved the introduction of an ordinance that authorizes using speed-monitoring systems near schools.  

It also unanimously approved a contract with the Hanover, Md.-based Brekford Corp. to implement and install the system.

Under the contract, Brekford will provide up to 16 portable speed cameras in the city and the personnel to man the technology five days a week at a rate of 39 percent of the monthly program payments, according to city documents.

Under the proposed ordinance, the city would set the fine for speeding in a school zone at $40, with a $5 discount for paying within seven days and an additional $20 fee for paying after 30 days.

Motorists who travel more than 12 mph over the posted limit would be ticketed under the proposal, Hagerstown Police Chief Arthur Smith said.

If a police officer caught a motorist traveling 12 mph over the limit, the ticket would likely be more than $100 if not closer to $150 and result in points on the motorist’s license, Smith said.

Tickets issued from the speed cameras will not be considered moving violations, so no points will be assessed against a driver’s license, and they will not be reported to insurance companies, he said.

Using speed cameras should reduce the city’s expense to enforce speeding in school zones, as well as generate general fund revenue, Smith said.

Radar enforcement by a sworn city police officer requires the officer’s time, often including overtime when a citation is challenged in court.  Plus, 100 percent of what is collected goes to the state of Maryland, he said.

Speed cameras are able to catch violators without requiring the presence of an officer, he said. While motorists are able to challenge the tickets in court, Smith said he expects that few people will because they will be able to see photographic proof of the violation.

Councilman Martin Brubaker said during the council’s Dec. 13 work session that he favored the idea freeing up officers’ time.

“But now, instead of running radar, they will be doing other things in the community, being a presence in the community instead of just traffic enforcement,” he said.

Likewise, after Brekford is paid, the remaining 61 percent of each fine goes to the city’s general fund, Smith said.   

“The thing about this is, it’s not a big fine but it is sure,” he said during the Dec. 13 work session.

Money collected by the city through the fines will go into the general fund for public safety, Smith said Tuesday.

He said the city has budgeted for $75,000 in general fund revenue from speed-camera enforcement in the remainder of the current fiscal year that ends on June 30, 2012.

However, padding the budget is not the intent of the system, he said on Dec. 13.

“Our intent is not to give out as many tickets as possible,” he said. “Our intent is to slow people down as they drive by the school.”

The council is scheduled to vote on the ordinance at its January 2012 regular meeting, according to city documents. If passed, the ordinance would go into effect in March 2012.

Where not already established by the state, the city will still need to define its school zones and speed limits in those zones though another ordinance, Smith said.

He said the cameras will be used primarily in school zones around elementary schools.

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