Double whammy: Car theft victims also hit with speed camera tickets

WASHINGTON — It’s bad enough to have your car stolen, but victims of theft are often hit with a double whammy in places such as Maryland and D.C. where speed cameras are becoming more and more prevalent.

If a car thief runs a red light or speeds in front of a camera, those tickets go directly to the victim’s mailbox.

“When your car is stolen, you can be victimized several times,” said AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesman John Townsend. “It is adding insult to injury.”

Although AAA does not have exact figures on how frequently such camera collateral damage occurs, the auto group estimates that it happens “hundreds of times per year” in the D.C. area.

One recent victim was Sam Schechter, a Northwest D.C. resident whose car was stolen near his home on Wyndale Street in late July.

“About three weeks later I started receiving speed camera tickets,” Schechter explained.

Schechter was hit with one speed camera ticket in Montgomery County, Maryland, two speed camera tickets in the District and another camera ticket in D.C. for running a stop sign.

The tickets added up to $340.

“I was definitely frustrated and wasn’t exactly sure what to do,” Schechter said.

According to AAA, vehicle theft victims have the best chance at fighting such tickets when they immediately report the theft to police and obtain a police report from the investigating officer. They should also notify their insurance company and Department of Motor Vehicles.

“Proving they aren’t the culprit might not be as easy as many drivers hope,” warned Townsend.

In both D.C. and Montgomery County, drivers are told to have a police report on hand if they plan to contest a camera ticket by saying their car was stolen.

Schechter obtained a police report so he could fight his tickets. But, that will not stop more tickets from coming.

“Presumably they’re still driving the car around,” Schechter said. “I don’t know how long this will continue. I never know if I’m going to have a mailbox full of these when I come home.”

Schechter said he thinks the cameras would be more useful if they could be connected to a national database of stolen vehicles.

“You have a golden opportunity here to alert police immediately to a stolen vehicle driving around,” said Schechter. “This is a system that could be doing that. They just haven’t harnessed that ability.”

 

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