City issued speed camera ticket to motionless car
Owner calls it "shockingly obvious" his car was not moving

The Baltimore Sun | December 12, 2012
By Scott Calvert

The 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."

The Sun recently published an investigation focusing on the city's speed camera program, which has generated more than $48 million since it began three years ago. The investigation found that citations can be inaccurate and that judges routinely throw out tickets for a range of problems.

The Sun has also shown that it is impossible for motorists to verify the alleged speeds with the information printed on tickets issued by Baltimore County, Howard County and the State Highway Administration.

Since the articles' publication, several lawmakers have called for changes to the state law that governs the way the city and other jurisdictions operate speed camera programs. Gov. Martin O'Malley said Tuesday that state law bars contractors from being paid based on the number of citations issued or paid an approach used by Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Howard County and elsewhere.

"The law says you're not supposed to charge by volume. I don't think we should charge by volume," O'Malley said. "If any county is, they need to change their program."