Baltimore Camera Audit: Thousands of Drivers Wrongly Ticketed

Friday, 24 Jan 2014 08:54 AM

By Michael Mullins

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An audit of Baltimore's speed camera system has found that thousands of motorists were wrongly ticketed in 2012.

In a report obtained by the Baltimore Sun, the "secret audit," as the newspaper described it, evaluated the camera systems operated by Xerox State and Local Solutions had an error rate of greater than 10 percent, which is reportedly 40 times higher than had been claimed by city officials.

The city of Baltimore apparently received the audit last April, but failed to disclose the significantly high error rate of its speed cameras, the Baltimore Sun reported.

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The audit was conducted by the Consultant URS Corp., which looked at a sample of nearly 1,000 tickets from a random day in 2012, in which it found 37 of the city's 83 speed cameras not functioning properly.

In 2012, the city ticketed roughly 700,000 people as a result of their speed cameras, with each ticket costing $40. If 70,000 of those citations resulted from erroneous camera reports, as the audit finds, that would mean the city of Baltimore received approximately $2.8 million from inaccurate citations.

Baltimore City Council members were furious when they learned of the audit on Wednesday.

"It's outrageous. No, it's beyond outrageous," City Councilman Carl Stokes said. "Who ever heard of a secret audit? We should have told the public immediately. We should have declared complete amnesty, that all of the tickets were null and void. If anybody paid, they should be paid back."

"That is extraordinary," City Council member Robert Curran added. "Anything more than a 2 percent error rate is unacceptable."

Thirteen cameras were identified with double-digit error rates in the audit, with at least one camera having an error rate as high as 58 percent.

The Baltimore Sun reported that city officials had on numerous occasions prior to the audit's release claimed the error rate of their speed cameras was "less than a quarter of one percent."

On Wednesday, city officials said that soon after they received the audit they hired a new company to operate the cameras and they voided or refunded tickets they believed were obviously erroneous, the Baltimore Sun noted.

"Once it became clear that there were very high error rates, we didn't feel comfortable with the program, and we moved quickly to take it offline," Kevin Harris, a spokesman for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said. "I think if you look at the actions we took, it's clear we did take it seriously, which is why we have voided and refunded all erroneous tickets and told the public immediately that the program would be discontinued until we could vouch for its accuracy."

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