HOLLYWOOD, Md. (Jan. 7, 2016)—While the Commissioners of St. Mary’s County debated the merits of automated red light enforcement cameras at Tuesday’s regular meeting, any opposition some of them might have to the idea may not matter as Sheriff Timothy K. Cameron said the ultimate authority about whether they become a reality is between his agency and the State Highway Administration.
Cameron said he would still want the commissioners’ cooperation on bringing red light cameras to St. Mary’s County if there were a funding issue for the project, but again that would be unlikely since any vendor the sheriff’s office would chose would absorb the upfront cost of installing the cameras in order to begin a profitable sharing of the fines collected from violators.
Cameron told The County Times that as the cameras were installed the vendor would simply collect a greater share of the fines until the cameras began to pay for themselves. Once that occurred the county would then split the collection of fines evenly, he said.
Even if there was a cost, Cameron said, his agency could probably afford to pay for the cameras since it usually returns nearly $2 million in unused funds to the county each year.
The sheriff’s agency has selected five intersections in the county where they want to see red light cameras installed, with four of them on Route 235 and only needs approval from the state highway authorities to begin the process of installation.
But that process would be a long and involved one, Cameron said, as the state would thoroughly investigate each intersection’s crash data to see whether a camera was warranted there.
Under the sheriff’s office current projected plan each red light camera would cost $2,250 to operate based on the network used by Howard County and the vendor known as ATS.
Citations would be issued by the sheriff’s office after they reviewed all of the images taken by a camera to ascertain whether a violation actually took place; Cpl. B.J. Connolly of the agency’s special operations unit said that only about 10 to 15 percent of images resulted in an actual citation.
Once a citation was given, he said, the cost was projected to be $75 with no points on a driver’s record or reports to the insurance company.
Connolly explained that there were not enough deputies to engage in traffic enforcement of red light infractions on selected Route 235 intersections and that if they did it might cause more problems.
“It’s unsafe for officers to do red light enforcement there,” Connolly said. “There are no shoulders or places to pull off.”
The sheriff’s office has selected intersections at Millstone Landing, Maple, Old Rolling and Pegg roads for possible cameras. Commissioner Mike Hewitt said he applauded the push for safety at red lights but opposed the cameras.
“This just looks like the continuing overreach of government,” Hewitt said.
Commissioner Tom Jarboe, on the other hand, seemed in favor of the idea.
“I drive all over the state and Route 235 is the most place I know of,” he said. “Where red light cameras are people stop and at the yellow lights they slow down, they don’t just fly through.”
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