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Police double up on cameras to catch speeding drivers

Wednesday - 2/22/2012, 1:45pm  ET

(WTOP/Paul D. Shinkman)

Ask the Chief

Prince George's County Police Chief Mark Magaw & Montgomery County Police Chief Thomas Manger


(Live Blog below)

WASHINGTON - Police in Maryland are keeping up with speeding drivers with a new maneuver to catch leadfoots in the act, and potentially issue twice the number of tickets.

Would-be speeders slow down in areas where they know there are fixed cameras, and speed up again after passing through, police in Montgomery and Prince George's counties have observed. On WTOP's "Ask The Chief" on Wednesday, Montgomery County Police Chief Thomas Manger said his police force now adds additional mobile speed cameras in these speed-up zones to drive the message home.

A similar program began in Prince George's County in September, Police Chief Mark Magaw said on the show.

"It's an effective program," Manger says. "It's not about the fines, it's about getting people to change their driving behavior."

"Nothing has been more effective at getting people to pay attention to their speed as speed cameras," he says.

The number of speed camera tickets has steadily decreased, he says, adding a lot of that has had to do with drivers learning where the cameras are. Both chiefs hope establishing these new "safety zones" will create safer streets.

The chiefs also discussed the surprising reaction they get from many parents whose children are cited for underage drinking at house parties where an adult is present.

"You get this reaction from parents, 'Why are you interfering with our kids having fun?'" Manger says. "It's disappointing to see that reaction."

Manger also believes the recent spike in armed robberies in Bethesda along the Northwest D.C. border is directly related to similar crimes in D.C.

On the other side of the District, Magaw discussed the 12 homicides in Prince George's County in the first 12 days of 2011. Applying "every discretionary resource we had on the street," helped ease the killing spate, he says, which has continued to drop since.

Homicides are down 47.4 percent this year, he says.

Learn more about what the chiefs called the "callous" and "outrageous" lack of reaction from the Apple store employees who heard the Lululemon murder taking place, license plate scanners and illegal immigration enforcement by checking out our live blog, below.

WTOP's Paul D. Shinkman contributed to this report. Follow Paul and WTOP on Twitter.

10:56 a.m., speaking about the Lululemon murder trial, and the Apple store employees who ignored apparent pleas for help:

Manger: It's outrageous. To see the "callous" response to someone who is clearly in distress. It wasn't a crime, but "I think a great lesson was learned." It's always better to call the police.

10:55 a.m., speaking about license plate scanners:

Manger: We are using this valuable data, making arrests based on the information we receive. The key piece here is privacy. We keep the data indefinitely, but we know we can't do that forever because of technological restraints. I think if it's case-specific, it would stay forever.

Magaw: We use it also. It's helped us on multiple occasions for crimes.

10:54 a.m., speaking about stopping aggressive panhandling at intersections:

Manger: Aggressive panhandling is against the law. When someone interferes with traffic we struggle with enforcing that. Unfortunately we do allow panhandling on the roadways.

10:51 a.m., speaking about who polices Montgomery County police, particularly for reckless driving:

Manger: This is a complaint we hear a lot of. If officers are not involved in an emergency response, they have to follow the same rules of the road as anyone else. The numbers on the cars are prominently displayed. Who's policing the police? We are.

Magaw: We recently hired a new police inspector general who sits atop internal affairs. There is no one between him and me.

10:48 a.m., speaking about relations with the University of Maryland:

Magaw: Previously we didn't communicate with the student government and the Diamondback student newspaper. Those were failings, and I believe communications are going to be better now.

10:41 a.m., speaking about implementing the Secure Communities program, the nation-wide initiative to cooperate with federal customs enforcement:

Manger: Baltimore City and Montgomery County are the last in the state to come on board. It requires nothing of the local police departments. This is one of the reasons Secure Communities is what local communities nation-wide are asking for.

I don't want to be in the immigration enforcement business.

Now you get fingerprinted for any offense.

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