Cameras Deployed To Slow Speeders

County and local police are patrolling more than 30 potential trouble spots.
County and local police are patrolling more than 30 potential trouble spots. (Courtesy Of Montgomery County Police)
By Miranda S. Spivack
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Montgomery County became the first jurisdiction in Maryland yesterday to deploy cameras to catch speeding motorists in residential neighborhoods and near schools, the latest effort to reduce accidents and stem an increase in pedestrian deaths.

The Safe Speed program's cameras and radar went into action yesterday in five roving vans as county and local police began patrolling more than 30 locations identified as potential trouble spots. Later this year, county police expect to mount six cameras at permanent sites and deploy at least six fully equipped vans marked "Safe Speed" that can move easily among hot spots. Police are collecting data to decide where to place the cameras.

Chevy Chase Village, Gaithersburg and Rockville -- which have their own police forces -- will use speed cameras as well.

"This is a warning, based on a problem," said County Executive Isiah Leggett (D), who joined police officials outside a Rockville school to launch the program and display the equipment. "This is a hope that people will get the message."

State Sen. Alex X. Mooney (R-Frederick), who tried to block the measure in the General Assembly, said the cameras would be a moneymaker for Montgomery County but would do little to slow traffic.

"I am not looking forward to my constituents in Frederick County being taxed by Montgomery County," he said in an interview. He predicted that the cameras could even increase accidents. "There will be a lot of start, stop, start, stop, and it will disrupt traffic flow."

County officials said their goal is to change drivers' behavior and get them to slow down, not generate cash for the treasury. Officials have pledged that they won't use hidden cameras and will post the locations on their Web sites.

Montgomery Police Chief J. Thomas Manger said the speed cameras are "one more resource to help protect our citizens by reducing aggressive driving."

Last year, 18 pedestrians died in Montgomery; there were 10 pedestrian deaths in 2005, police said.

The program will operate on a trial basis for 30 days in residential neighborhoods and near schools where the speed limit is 35 mph or lower. Police will use the trial period to send notices to vehicle owners. After that, they will begin mailing $40 civil citations. The violations will not result in points on a driver's record.

Under the program, vehicles traveling 11 mph or more over the posted limit will be photographed.

Rockville started with a single camera yesterday and plans to rotate its moving camera among 12 sites, then mount three others later this year. Police in Chevy Chase Village hope to have two cameras in places by April, and Gaithersburg hopes to have one by summer.

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