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Correction to This Article
This column, about Montgomery County's speed-limit enforcement cameras, incorrectly said that the company that runs the cameras and receives a portion of the fines is owned by Lockheed Martin. The company, Affiliated Computer Services, is owned by Xerox.

In Montgomery County, cameras are frequent victims of accelerated tempers

The top speed cameras in Montgomery County, according to police.
The top speed cameras in Montgomery County, according to police.

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By Petula Dvorak
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 4, 2010; 7:11 PM

Did you hear that sound drifting out of Montgomery County this week?

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It was a little bit like "wooo-hooo!" or "yesssss!" Or maybe it was just the thwack of fist pumps hitting car ceilings as drivers heard the news that yet another speed camera has been torched.

"I'd love to shoot one of them," volunteered a guy eating lunch not far from the charred remains of a speed camera on Quince Orchard Road in Gaithersburg.

Online, some drivers vowed to buy the arsonist a beer - a case of beer, even!

So far, it doesn't appear that anyone has gone sniper on the sneaky devices. But two were set ablaze about five miles apart this week, and earlier this year, two others in the county had their lenses spray painted black.

The antipathy in Montgomery - which drivers regard as the speed camera capital of our region - isn't hard to fathom. What started small in 2007 with a dozen or so speed cameras has morphed into gargantuan gotcha, with 109 cameras raking in almost $21 million for the county's recession-depleted coffers in fiscal 2009.

But the rage against the machine can be found almost everywhere there are speed cameras.

Across the nation, the robotic long arm of the law has been cut down, torched, painted, silly-stringed, paint-balled, foiled by a simple Post-It note over the lens and repeatedly capped with styrofoam cups and boxes.

Those horrid contraptions are the source of those hateful little ransom notes that come in the mail about two weeks after you went too fast.

The letter has a photo of your car, a close-up of the plate, the time, date and the speed at which you were trying to get to the church benefit to help homeless orphans (at least, that's where I'm always going when I get one) and the demand for about $40.

Don't worry, this won't go on your driving record; nor will we call your insurance. Just give us the cash and all will be fine, k?

So, I guess what that means is that according to the law of speed cameras, it's cool to go fast as long as you're willing to pay for it.


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