Municipal leaders want speed cameras, sooner or later

Feasibility, other priorities might be obstacles

by David Hill | Staff Writer

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Officials in Berwyn Heights, Greenbelt and College Park would like to follow New Carrollton's lead by adding their own school zone speed cameras, but aren't sure when they'll be ready to do so.
Representatives from the four municipalities said during their quarterly Four Cities Coalition meeting Oct. 29 in Greenbelt that they are in favor of adding the cameras, which are required to be posted within a quarter-mile of nearby schools.
Officials from New Carrollton discussed the cameras as one of their agenda items during the meeting. The city posted its first camera Oct. 1, but officials from other cities said they are currently weighed down with other priorities and budgetary concerns.
"We haven't even come close to deciding," said Greenbelt Mayor Judith Davis, whose city already has seven red light cameras but no speed cameras. "These things are costly. But yes, we understand it would save lives."
New Carrollton installed its first camera near the intersection of Westbrook and Lamont drives and has been sending warning letters to drivers caught driving more than 12 mph above the speed limit.
The city sent about 150 warning letters in October and on Sunday began fining speeders $40, said City Administrator J. Michael Downes. The camera was relocated that day to Good Luck Road near Cathedral Avenue, and Downes said the city will periodically move the camera to keep drivers on their toes.
"We got the portable cameras for a reason," he said. "When everybody gets used to it [on Good Luck Road], we'll probably move it again."
The devices did not cost any money to install, Waters said, but the vendor — Lanham-based Optotraffic — receives a portion of ticket revenue. The city plans to add two more cameras in the coming months and other cities are looking into similar plans.
"We've received only positive feedback from residents," said Assistant City Administrator Graham Waters. "We just don't have the police officers right now to run radar all the time, and this kind of makes up for our lack of police power."
Of the other three cities, Berwyn Heights appears closest to adding its own cameras. The Town Council will conduct a second read of an ordinance this month that would approve installation, said Mayor Cheye Calvo.
The city is studying three potential camera sites — Pontiac Street, Edmonston Road and Greenbelt Road — and could install its first camera as early as January.
"You have to have not just enough volume, but you need to have consistent volume throughout the day," he said. "There probably aren't many places in town that we can actually put them."
While officials in Greenbelt are at a much earlier stage of looking into the cameras' feasibility, the issue hasn't really come up in College Park, where the City Council has been more concerned with adding cameras to stop street crime than to deter speeders.
Mayor Stephen Brayman said he would be open to seeing the city pursue the cameras, which he said would help to cut down speeding on roads near Hollywood and Paint Branch elementary schools.
"If this could calm down the people on Rhode Island Avenue, that would be a good thing," he said.
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