Maryland to Install New Cameras…to Monitor Its Traffic Cameras


Apparently, some people do not like Maryland's speeding cameras, at least judging by the fact that they have vandalized those cameras on multiple occasions, setting one on fire and shooting another with a gun. A man in Howard County apparently shot marbles at a speeding camera van this summer. There have been a handful of other indicidents as well. 

The can't-make-this-up response of Prince George's County officials to problems with camera vandalism? More cameras. To monitor the cameras. Really. Via WTOP:

Many people find speed cameras frustrating, and some in the region are taking their rage out on the cameras themselves.

But now there's a new solution: cameras to watch the cameras.

One is already in place, and Prince George's County Police Maj. Robert V. Liberati hopes to have up to a dozen more before the end of the year.

"It's not worth going to jail over a $40 ticket or an arson or destruction of property charge," says Liberati.

Liberati is the Commander of the Automated Enforcement Section, which covers speed and red-light cameras.

Liberati, who is part of the county's Automated Enforcement Section, notes that it costs between $30,000 and $100,000 to replace a camera. This, he says, represents "a significant loss in the program." If saving money is the goal, however, wouldn't it be cheaper to simply remove all of the cameras rather than put in additional units, which are apparently quite expensive to install and maintain, and which create additional risks of vandalism-related expenses?

One also has to wonder about the logical end point of this approach. If someone shoots marbles or bullets at one of the new camera-monitoring cameras, will the state follow up by installing a third layer of cameras, to watch the cameras that were supposed to be watching the speed cameras? And what if someone destroys those? How many layers of expensive camera watching cameras will it take for the plan to be cost effective? This does not seem like a money saving plan. 

But perhaps saving money is not the real motivation for installing the cameras. The story also notes that "the Prince George's County Police Department decided it needed to catch the vandals, or at least deter them." It is not clear, however, why anyone who was already willing to destroy a state-operated speeding camera would not also be willing to destroy a state-operated speeding camera monitor camera. 

Liberati has a final reason for installing the new cameras. Speeding camera vandalism, he says, "takes a camera off the street that operates and slows people down. So there's a loss of safety for the community." Apparently he thinks it's safer for the state to not only operate cameras that attract gunfire and arson, but also to install additional cameras which may attract more such activity. 

One thing the state is absolutely not attempting to do is protect a revenue source. According to WTOP, "Liberati says the cameras aren't a case of Big Brother nor a cash grab, police are simply trying to keep the public safe from reckless drivers." Of course not.