County is Confident in Laser Speed Cameras Despite Baltimore's Problems

"There has not been a need to plan for an outside audit" in Howard County, a police spokesperson said.

A Howard County speed camera van. Credit: Patch file photo.
A Howard County speed camera van. Credit: Patch file photo.

Howard County police said there is no need for an audit of the county's speed camera program because the laser technology and policies the county uses are different from Baltimore City's, where an audit found a significant amount of erroneous tickets being issued.

The audit caused Baltimore to abruptly end its relationship with its speed camera vendor, Xerox State and Local Solutions, according to a Baltimore Sun report. Xerox supplies Howard County with its speed cameras—two that operate from vans and two other portable cameras.

"Although we both have used the same vendor, Xerox, the technologies they have provided us share few similarities," wrote Sherry Llewellyn, Howard County police's spokesperson, in an email. "Invalid Xerox citations in Baltimore were specifically linked to radar, not laser, technology. Howard County uses laser only.

"We have had no indications of erroneous speed camera citations being sent in Howard County, so there has not been a need to plan for an outside audit of our program," wrote Llewellyn.

Baltimore City's audit was conducted in 2012 by URS Corp., a consulting firm. It found an error rate of more than 10 percent, which one city council member called "outrageous," according to the Sun report. 

Howard County primarily operates its cameras in school zones with significant speed problems, according to Llewellyn. She said Baltimore acknowledged in the past some of its citations were not properly validated.

"Howard County citations are reviewed in a much more thorough, multi-step process, by multiple police employees, helping to ensure citations do not go out in error," wrote Llewellyn.

So what's the difference between radar and laser cameras?

Laser cameras shoot a beam of light to determine a vehicle's speed, while radar cameras use radio waves, according to an article on AOL Autos.

Both radar and laser speed measurement technologies have been proven accurate for decades, according to a USA Today report, although lasers are believed to be slightly more accurate.

Fernando Berra III, a photonic engineer who spoke with the Sunsaid lasers are more accurate than radar but can still produce errors. He told the paper an audit of any speed camera system "would find similar errors."

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dwb January 24, 2014 at 07:16 PM
The funny thing about audits is that you never know you need one until you get one. Sure, there are no indications of errors, because no one has looked. Saying you see no errors without having first looked for errors is kinda absurd.
EL January 24, 2014 at 08:17 PM
Seriously, maybe be a little preemptive. Would it hurt? How much would cost? Use some of the money from the AutoTicketMachines (like the one that seems to be a permanent fixture on Centennial) to fund an audit and prove to all - it really is about safety and not money.
JaySmith January 26, 2014 at 09:46 AM
We seem to be turning into a "police-state". Something just doesn't feel right about all this monitoring. How about all the SWAT-team, police, military-looking guys at the Mall yesterday after the double-murder? It seems to be going too far. The word "fascism" comes to mind. The icing on the cake is the "rain tax/penalty" for all us criminals who have a roof and driveway.


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