Carroll could get speeding cameras
By Kathryn Leiter, Times Staff Writer Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Maryland Municipal League creating bill to add devices

Carroll County drivers may soon be facing an increase of police enforcement in residential areas, but not in the form of additional officers.

The Maryland Municipal League is drawing up a bill that would allow Maryland municipalities to use cameras to crack down on speeding in residential areas and school zones.

The bill would go before the 2008 legislative session, said MML Director of Government Relations Candace Donoho.

If passed, it would be up to each municipality to decide whether they use the new equipment, she said. If a town doesn’t have its own police department, the town would have to go to the county to work with them, she said.

“I would certainly support it, and I would love to see it,” said Chief John Williams Jr. of the Sykesville Police Department.

The Carroll County Sherriff’s office is also in favor of the added enforcement, said spokesman Lt. Phil Kasten.

“We support the various alternatives,” Kasten said. “Photo enforcement encourages motorists to be responsible.”

According to Carroll County Sherriff’s office statistics, there were 25 fatal crashes in 2006, up 29 percent from previous years. Carroll had the eighth highest number of fatal crashes of Maryland’s 23 counties last year, Kasten said.

Montgomery County was the first county in the state to allow speed enforcement cameras, and since its May inception, the program has been a success, said Montgomery police Capt. John Damskey.

“The benefits of a speed camera program outweigh the effort of maintaining one,” he said. “If just one life can be spared by using the cameras, then a municipality would be prudent to seek this as a viable option.”

While speed cameras act as another set of eyes for the police department, it is not a replacement for officers.

“This program helps to augment the traditional work performed by traffic officers,” Damskey said. “Officers will continue to enforce speeding and other traffic laws as the use of cameras serve as a force multiplier so that additional enforcement can be focused in neighborhoods and school zones.”

According to AAA Mid-Atlantic’s 2007 Transportation poll, 74 percent of Maryland drivers said police should use speed cameras on neighborhood streets and in school zones. About 71 percent of drivers also felt that Maryland should let every county use speed cameras, while 58 percent said they would like to see speed cameras used on highways and major roads.

Despite polls showing favorable statistics when it comes to the newest form of enforcement, some municipalities and residents are still hesitant.

“We’ve had the ability to put the red light cameras [in] and it has been the will and decision of the mayor and council to not do that,” Hampstead Police Chief Ken Meekins said. “Not that we wouldn’t revisit it.”

When the option to add red light cameras was brought up previously, residents said it was just another way to increase revenue to the local government, Meekins said.

Since the bill is in the beginning stages, where the revenue will end up is still unknown, Donoho said.

“The intention would be to have the revenues one, offset the cost of the equipment and two, supplement local public safety budgets,” she said.

Reach staff writer Kathryn Leiter at 410-751-5909 or