BALTIMORE – We all get angry over speeding tickets, claiming we “weren’t going that fast” or that someone else on the road was driving faster than we were. But in Baltimore, speeding ticket recipients really do have a reason to be angry: a recent audit revealed that thousands of Baltimore’s speed cameras issued unwarranted tickets.
The audit found Baltimore’s cameras to have “alarmingly high error rates” measuring higher than 10 percent. In 2012, the city of Baltimore issued more than 700,000 speeding tickets, which means that 70,000 of these could very probably have been incorrectly issued.
At $40 a ticket, that’s a $2.8 million mistake.
The secret audit was obtained by the Baltimore Sun. Baltimore officials were first notified of it in April 2013, but, despite the City Council’s urging, did not immediately make the details public.
“It’s outrageous,” City Councilman Carl Stokesto told the Sun, “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,” he continued.
Baltimore claims to have stopped the camera program within one week of obtaining the audit’s results. At this point, it was being run by a new company, Brekford.
According to a Baltimore mayor spokesperson, the city “didn’t feel comfortable with the program” and “moved quickly to take it offline.”
The spokesperson explained that Baltimore has “voided and refunded all erroneous tickets.” Local NBC affiliate WBAL estimated that the city had recalled about 1,400 tickets.
The city originally claimed an error rate of “less than a quarter of one percent.” The investigation quite distinctly indicated otherwise. Of Baltimore’s 83 speed cameras, only 12 were found to be properly functional; one of the cameras registered an astonishing error rate of nearly 60 percent.
That’s an “extraordinary” error rate, as City Council member Robert Curran put it. “Anything more than a two percent error rate is unacceptable,” Curran said.
The city has not released the audit to the public, claiming that to do so would violate terms of the settlement with the camera’s system’s original contractor, Xeror State and Local Solutions.
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