Police to double number of officers reviewing speed camera tickets

Baltimore police officials said Thursday the department is doubling to 25 the number of officers available to review speed camera tickets — one of several moves intended to help prevent the issuance of erroneous citations, which has cast a cloud over the city's program in recent months.

Meanwhile, city transportation officials said Baltimore's new speed camera vendor, Brekford Corp. of Hanover, has delivered some new cameras and is scheduled to replace all 83 of the city's existing cameras by late March, about a month sooner than anticipated.

"We are happy we're going to have all-new equipment," acting transportation director Frank Murphy told members of a task force formed by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to study Baltimore's speed and red light camera system.

The meeting came as the system has experienced a near-shutdown during what city officials called a problematic transition to Brekford. City officials acknowledged this week that no speed camera tickets had been issued since Jan. 1, and online records showed just 17 tickets from red light cameras.

Murphy said he did not think any of the newly delivered speed cameras have begun to issue citations, and officials were mum on whether any of the 81 red light cameras are generating tickets, citing public safety concerns.

Although Thursday's meeting focused on preventing faulty tickets from being mailed to motorists, Murphy said the former vendor, Xerox State and Local Solutions, would continue to review all tickets issued from five cameras found to have had a 5 percent error rate. So far, 239 of the $40 tickets have been refunded.

"We are committed to refunding the people who got any erroneous tickets from those five at any time since their inception," Murphy said.

Police officials have acknowledged shortcomings with the department's previous review process. That legally required review comes after an initial assessment by the vendor and is the final step before a ticket is issued. Some officers were checking up to 1,200 citations per day.

"Getting this thing right is a high priority for us," said police Capt. Gordon Schluderberg.

He and Lt. Milton L. Corbett laid out a series of changes: The number of officers available to review camera citations will rise from 12 to 25, forming what Schluderberg called an "overtime-based operation." They will work five at a time, overseen by a quality compliance officer who will spot-check their work. All will be trained, and supervisors will limit how many hours each spends approving or rejecting tickets on a given day.

Transportation officials revealed for the first time Thursday that the city has a signed contract with Brekford. Murphy said the city wants to modify it by incorporating financial penalties for errors above an as-yet-undetermined level and incentives for high performance. A Brekford executive who attended the task force meeting declined to comment.

The Baltimore Sun has documented erroneous speed readings from seven of the city's cameras, including one instance in which a Mazda was ticketed while stopped at a red light.

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