Baltimore City Council: Need For Cash Fueled Faulty Speed Camera System
Investigation ignores accuracy concerns, call for fewer cameras.
STEPHEN JANIS, TRNN CORRESPONDENT: As the city’s expansive enforcement bureaucracy continues to look ineffective in the wake of the death of Freddie Gray in police custody and a record month of violence in Baltimore, another less prominent facet of it, an extensive camera system which issues tickets for red lights and speeding, is being labeled as problem-plagued as well.
JAMES KRAFT, BALTIMORE CITY COUNCILMAN, 1ST DISTRICT: In hindsight, virtually everyone agrees that the program was too big. The Department of Transportation did not have proper personnel to handle it, and too few people were assigned solely to its operation.
JANIS: At a press conference Monday, City Council president Jack Young and councilman James Kraft released a special report outlining major problems with a system that has been previously cited as error-prone, and was ultimately shut down two years ago. Among them, the fact that the system which an audit found had an error rate of 10 percent was understaffed, overexpansive, and driven by money, not safety.
KRAFT: When the difficulties began with Xerox, the Department of Transportation had an opportunity to reevaluate the program and determine how it should best be operated. It is our belief that the short-sighted demand for immediate revenue generation not only prevented DOT from availing itself from this chance, but also stifled any serious consideration of it.
JANIS: In fact similar to the city’s police department, which is the second-largest per capita in the country, the report found Baltimore City has one of the largest speed camera programs nationwide, but it was staffed by people without the expertise to run it.
KRAFT: We had what has been described by many people during this process as the largest program in North America. We had no one really qualified to run it.
JANIS: And despite its size, the report found the system had inadequate checks and balances on where cameras were placed, and why.
KRAFT: Site selection should never be made simply upon the request or demand of an elected official, regardless of who that official may be.
JANIS: And even the accuracy of this system, which a Baltimore Sun investigation found issued a speeding ticket to a parked car, received little scrutiny.
QUESTION: Did your investigation reach any findings about how widespread the errors were?
JANIS: Instead, the Council simply recommended restarting the program without any new checks and balances, just better-trained staff and less emphasis on revenue. Still, Councilman James Kraft admitted in the end the decision to turn the cameras back on would not be up to him, but the Mayor. And so far, the Mayor’s office is not commenting.
KRAFT: Well, a mayor’s role is the same as any, the Mayor’s role in any program. If the Mayor supports a program, you have it. If the Mayor doesn’t support a program, you don’t.
JANIS: Stephen Janis, reporting with Megan Sherman, for The Real News Network in Baltimore.
DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.