Moving cameras to make more money would be illegal under bill

A Maryland lawmaker fears the state's speed cameras are being abused in an effort to generate more revenue, as programs in Prince George's and Montgomery counties expand.

Del. Carolyn J.B. Howard has introduced a bill making it illegal for local or state officials operating speed camera programs in neighborhoods, school zones and work zones to move cameras solely for the purpose of gaining more revenue.

Howard testified before a House of Delegates committee that she overheard a conversation in a county meeting related to moving speed cameras.

Howard, a Prince George's County Democrat, declined to specify what the meeting was for or in which county the meeting took place.

"A government official made a statement that speed cameras were going to be moved so they could generate more revenue," Howard said. "That was not the purpose of the bill when it was passed."

The concerns, she said, stem from mobile speed cameras, which can be moved easily from location to location.

Police in Prince George's County who use mobile cameras exclusively say the devices are moved only if there's a greater demand at another location or if cameras have successfully caused drivers to slow down.

The Prince George's program, which was implemented in September, is already showing progress, according to Maj. Robert Liberati, commander of the police department's automated enforcement section.

Citations issued have been declining since November, even as the county adds new cameras to its arsenal.

Prince George's cameras caught 39,963 speeding drivers in November, then 35,417 drivers in December.

In January, only 26,896 citations were issued, according to police.

"The fact that the program is ramping up and the number of citations is falling somewhat dramatically is telling," Liberati said. "To say blatantly that we're doing it for money, it just doesn't match."

Prince George's speed cameras have netted the county roughly $1.8 million in revenue since September 2011.

Police are on target to operate 72 mobile cameras by September this year, Liberati said.

Police in Montgomery County, where fixed-location speed cameras have been used for years, are now adding mobile speed cameras to alter drivers habits, Police Chief Thomas Manger told WTOP Wednesday.

The mobile cameras will help throw off drivers who have grown accustomed to the slamming their brakes at fixed-location cameras and speeding past afterward, Manger said.