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Published On: 8/8/13

More Speed Cameras Eyed For Wicomico County

By: Staff Writer via Maryland Coast Dispatch

SALISBURY – Despite a few flaws, the Wicomico County Sheriff’s Office is looking to expand the speed cameras in school zones after finding the program to be successful in slowing down speeders.

According to the Wicomico County Sheriff’s Office, in October 2009 the State of Maryland authorized the use of automated speed monitoring systems in school and highway work zones.

The system uses radar technology to measure the speed of every vehicle that passes the camera. Vehicles found to be exceeding the posted speed limit by at least 12 miles per hour will be photographed to document the violation and determine the vehicle’s registered owner. After the violation is reviewed and approved by a deputized officer, a citation, including the violation photos and the vehicle’s speed, will be sent to the registered owner. The maximum fine is $40 for each violation. No license points are assessed and vehicle insurance providers are not notified.

In July of 2012, Wicomico County added its own automated speed monitoring system, manufactured by Red Speed. The Sheriff’s Office and county officials are using this technology as a tool to assist police in enforcing posted speed limits, ensuring the safety of both children and citizens.

Currently, Red Speed is set up as a mobile device in a vehicle. The speed enforcement cameras are operational from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday thru Friday. The system rotates between different school zones. Signage is posted in the school zone when the camera is in use to alert drivers of Red Speed.

Any streets within a half-mile radius of a school are eligible for Speed Photo Enforcement. Currently, 12 schools out of 28 in the county are monitored, including Glen Avenue Elementary, Parkside High School, Pemberton Elementary, Salisbury Christian, Salisbury Middle School, West Salisbury Elementary, Willards Elementary, Pittsville Elementary, Westside Primary, Mardela Middle and High schools and Northwestern Elementary.

This week Internal Auditor Stephen Roser presented the County Council with an audit on Red Speed. Officer Mario Hernandez, Capt. Babe Wilson, and Corp. Brian Donohoe were present to update the council on the program.

“We have seen success with it particularly in Wicomico County,” Wilson said of Red Speed. “The total crashes have decreased since last year involving injuries and property damage, so we are seeing come success county-wide with our enforcement efforts, particularly with speed cameras in the school districts.”

Last November Sheriff Mike Lewis reported to the council a sudden rush of violations caused his office to question if one camera might have been malfunctioning.

The peak occurred during the week of Aug. 20-24 near Pemberton Elementary School. Though the camera was checked and no obvious problems were discovered, the Sheriff’s Office made the decision to refund all citations issued by that camera for the week the peak occurred just to eliminate all doubt.

This week Donohoe, Red Speed project manager, explained every morning the camera equipment is tested for malfunctions. Once the system passes all tests, the footage and all violations are reviewed from the day prior.

First, the footage is reviewed by Red Speed, which discards disqualifying violations. The footage is then reviewed by the Sheriff’s Office that also has disqualifying criteria established by an online program, Red Check. Disqualifying criteria can be anything that would have the license place unreadable from a blurred image, a rainy day or if multiple cars are captured.

“If you look at the numbers, we are probably at 50 percent below that threshold of actual citations that are issued from what we actually capture,” Wilson said.

If the system is tested and does come up with a malfunction, the Sheriff’s Office immediately contacts Red Speed and all violations from the day prior are discarded.

Currently, the Sheriff’s Office is asking county officials to consider expanding the Red Speed system within 90 days in time for the upcoming school year.

Councilman Joe Holloway stated Red Speed has captured drivers going 70 to 80 mph in neighborhoods that following a review Sheriff Mike Lewis and County Attorney Edgar Baker have found to be impossible to drive that fast in those areas.

“That is what’s wrong with this system, it is flawed, and I am sorry that I voted for it,” Joe Holloway said.

Councilman Bob Culver stated he would not in favor of an expansion with one of his biggest problems being how the revenue collected from the citations is spent.

“We collected over $40,000 last year and it went towards patrol car computers, the K-9 unit, and uniforms. How is any of that helping the kids? If you were going to say we are going to put better lights in front of a school zone or more crossing guards, I would be for it but not for computers in cars that could be a general budget expense,” Culver said.

Councilwoman Stevie Prettyman has found Red Speed to be a good experience.

“The safety of children is imperative and right now I feel that it is doing what it is supposed to be doing,” she said.

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