Landover Hills is one of a growing number of Maryland jurisdictions that use automated cameras to catch speeders. For some, the programs have added a valuable source of revenue, but often accompanied by legal challenges and a public perception that the cameras are being used as moneymakers rather than to improve safety.
In a recent Washington Post poll on transportation and other regional issues, 50 percent of Maryland residents said they supported speed cameras and 47 percent were against them, similar to the levels of support across the entire Washington region.
Speed camera programs have expanded quickly across Maryland since the state approved them in 2009. As many as 50 Maryland municipalities have speed cameras or red-light programs or both, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a research groups based in Arlington County.
Commuters driving in Prince George’s, in particular, have dozens of cameras to watch out for. The county and most of its 27 incorporated municipalities have the programs.
“They just continue to grow and grow and grow. Within a small radius [in the Forest Heights area], you have six cameras,” said Will Foreman, owner of Eastover Auto Supply.
Foreman said he has found inaccuracies in the citations issued to his employees and has spent two years contesting them in court. “It has nothing to do with law enforcement — it’s all about generating revenue,” he said.
Prince George’s residents are evenly split on speed cameras, according to the poll, which was conducted June 19 to 23 among a random sample of 1,106 Washington area adults.
“The challenge is always public perception,” said Riverdale Park Police Chief David C. Morris, whose department operates four speed cameras. “It is the other 50 percent that we need to continue to convince.”
Local government and police officials say the cameras enhance public safety. But critics assert that the governments are setting up speed traps to fatten their budgets. Some jurisdictions, including Riverdale Park and Landover Hills, have added a “speed camera” line to their budgets, specifying how much money they expect to collect.
Hyattsville, which turned on its first two speed cameras in March, voted in April to allow up to 10 cameras in the city, which is about three square miles.
Landover Hills, with a police force of five officers, is investing some of its speed-camera cash on a new, camera-equipped car to stop more speeders.
“There is a problem with speed everywhere,” said Police Chief Henry Norris. “You are getting people going 60 and 70 miles an hour” in a stretch of Route 450, where the limit is 35 mph.