City issued speed camera ticket to motionless car

bs-md-speed-camera-stopped-car-20121212The Baltimore City speed camera ticket alleged that the four-door Mazda wagon was going 38 miles per hour in a 25-mph zone — and that owner Daniel Doty owed $40 for the infraction. But the Mazda wasn’t speeding. It wasn’t even moving.

The two photos printed on the citation as evidence of speeding show the car was idling at a red light with its brake lights illuminated. A three-second video clip also offered as evidence shows the car motionless, as traffic flows by on a cross street.

The camera that wrongly ticketed Doty on April 24 is in Northeast Baltimore in the 1700 block of E. Cold Spring Lane, at the intersection with Hillen Road. It is the seventh city speed camera that The Baltimore Sun has shown to have produced inaccurate citations bearing erroneous speed readings.

Doty’s is the first case in which the vehicle was clearly stationary. City officials gave no explanation for how it happened.

Doty, a lawyer who lives in Lauraville, said he and his wife were amazed that the ticket was issued, calling it “shockingly obvious” from the images that the car was stopped. He has challenged the ticket and is scheduled to appear in District Court on Friday.

“It was like someone was so obviously asleep at the switch,” he said Wednesday. “I thought that was not supposed to happen.”

The city’s speed camera contractor, Xerox State and Local Solutions, says each potential citation goes through two layers of review to weed out any that have a deficiency, such as an illegible license plate.

Then a Baltimore police officer must review the citation before approving it for issuance to the vehicle owner. Each citation says the officer swears or affirms that the car was going at least 12 mph over the speed limit “based on inspection of the recorded images.” The officer’s signature is also printed.

The Sun asked city officials why Doty’s ticket was issued. Transportation Department spokeswoman Adrienne Barnes offered no explanation but said the agency would have more to say at Friday’s meeting of a task force set up by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to study the city’s entire speed and red light camera program. The city has 83 speed cameras and 81 red light cameras.

It isn’t clear from the signature on the citation which police officer reviewed Doty’s ticket, and police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi didn’t say when asked, but added, “The department finds any error unacceptable.” The department has said that a single officer can review up to 1,200 citations in a given day.

Xerox spokesman Chris Gilligan did not address Doty’s citation. He noted in a statement that a “system-wide audit of the Baltimore photo enforcement program is ongoing and has resulted in implementing an additional manual review of citations at all camera locations.”

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