Police double up on cameras to catch speeding drivers

(WTOP/Paul D. Shinkman)

(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.

Magaw: Once an arrest is made, those fingerprints are sent to Department of Justice and then on to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The communications piece of this has not been as well structured as it should have.

Now nobody in the police department asks about immigration status.

10:35 a.m., speaking about homicides in Prince George’s County:

Magaw: In January 2011, two weeks into taking the job, we had 12 homicides in 12 days. We put every discretionary resource we had on the street. We stopped the spike working closely with County Executive Baker’s staff. We’re down 2 percent this year, to date. Homicide number: we’re at 10.

Manger: We’re seeing a spike in robberies along the D.C. border. Even though crime is down in other places, you always need to be focused on criminal activity.

10:33 a.m., speaking about staffing:

Manger: I believe there will be an increase over the next 3 years, which is desperately needed. We always have an academy class going. Beginning in July of this year, we’re going to have a large class every six months.

Magaw: We have 1,523, with a class of 45 currently training. I took a plan to County Executive Baker to get us up to 1,800. By the end of 2013 we’ll be at 1,709.

10:32 a.m., speaking about potentially returning the DARE programs:

Manger: I would love for them or a similar program to come back. The issue for us is we just don’t have the staffing to do it right now. We’ve previously had officer in every high and middle schools, and some elementary. With budget cuts, we can’t afford it.

10:27 a.m., speaking about patrolling traffic:

Traffic incidents haven’t been on the rise, but it’s a concern for us.

10:25 a.m., speaking about officers using cell phones while driving, driving in HOV lanes:

Manger: Officers are exempted from bans on using cell phones while driving. Unless they’re responding to an emergency call, they not no more right to be in an HOV lane than anyone else.

10:22 a.m., speaking about gang issue in Maryland:

Magaw: We haven’t seen an influx from D.C., more from Virginia. We’re attacking the issue, along with Montgomery County to work cross-border issues.

Manger: This is a regional issue. We have two types: neighborhood-based, and ethnic-based. In Germantown we have instances of five kids getting together and giving themselves a name. When they begin to engage in criminal activity, that becomes a gang.

10:15 a.m., speaking about photo enforcement:

Manger: The numbers of speed camera tickets has steadily decreased. A lot of that has to do with the fact that people learn where the cameras are, but you create a “safety zone” in those places. It’s an effective program.

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

The program is not about revenue, as much as people don’t believe it. You’re going to see more strategic placement of mobile cameras. We’re planning to put those strategically after the fixed cameras, where people might speed up again.

Magaw: Our program began in September. It’s been very successful.

Manger: It’s not about the fines. It’s about getting people to change their driving behavior.

10:13 a.m., speaking about parking a car outside the house of Andrea McCarren, the journalist who brought underage drinking to light:

Manger: You get this reaction from parents, “Why are you interfering with our kids having fun? It’s disappointing to see that reaction.”

These parents are charged with allowing kids to drink underage.

Magaw: It’s a problem in every community. I fought hard to get our officers back in the high schools to monitor this issue. We have a special joint unit with the state’s attorney, liquor board, and fire officials to make sure clubs and bars are safe on weekends.

10:08 a.m., speaking about underage students purchasing alcohol in D.C. and bringing it back to Montgomery County:

Manger: We charged them after the purchased alcohol in D.C. and brought it back across the state line. That’s always been an issue, but I’m surprised by the reaction from the parents. Some think drinking beer underage is alright if they supervise. It is not.

10:04 a.m., speaking about the BMW crash at a KFC:

Magaw: Speed was a factor with the crash. The accident reconstruction unit was called out and they’re very methodical. There is no evidence that alcohol was involved, but it’s still under investigation.

The driver had some issues with speed in the past. Her license was suspended at the time. This is an issue and something we pay attention to. People have all kinds of excuses for driving on a suspended license.

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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