Wicomico Sheriff Defends Traffic Camera Usage

SALISBURY — Despite a minor hiccup that resulted in a week’s worth of speeding violations being refunded, Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis stood by his office’s continued use of traffic cameras this week.

“This has enabled us to do a lot with our resources … I think they’re working as desired,” he told the County Council Tuesday.

Currently, the sheriff’s office has two traffic cameras that it deploys in different county school zones. They are only deployed Monday through Friday between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. The cameras first became operational in July and since then have accumulated some impressive numbers.

Lewis confirmed that 586 speeding citations have been issued directly because of the cameras. Of those 586, only 15 have been contested and only one has been defeated in court. The sheriff explained that even that one defeat only came as a result of human error in submitting evidence by the prosecutor.

Those 586 citations have generated $23,400 in gross revenue, Lewis continued, with the county netting $14,650. Additionally, zero collisions have been reported in the areas where the cameras operate.

“I’m well aware when I enter a school zone that the cameras are functioning,” said Lewis, who added that the system is working “very, very well.”

Lewis did admit, though, that there was a bump in the road when a sudden rush of violations caused his office to question if one camera might have been malfunctioning.

“There was a peak that caused us some concern,” said Lewis.

The peak occurred during the week of Aug. 20-24 near Pemberton Elementary School (PES). Though the camera was checked and no obvious problems were discovered, the sheriff’s office made the decision to refund all citations issued by that camera for the week the peak occurred just to eliminate all doubt. Lewis told the council that one false ticket issued was “one too many.”

However, Lewis did make it clear that the refunds were only a safety precaution and not a judgment on the cameras, which are regularly checked by the sheriff’s office and Red Speed, their manufactures. After testing the camera at PES by both radar and laser, Lewis confirmed that it was accurate “plus or minus one mile.”

All told, 119 of the 586 citations were refunded, leading to a loss of $4,760 out of the $23,400 gross revenue. Despite the rough spot, Lewis doubled-down on his support of the cameras as traffic calming tools and told the council that residents seem to be starting to feel the same.

“We’re moving them to different locations … It’s nice to get requests to move those cameras,” he said.

While the cameras have had their detractors, Lewis explained that most of them seem to be people who were simply caught with a heavy foot that have trouble believing that they were “going that fast.”

While some members of the Wicomico County Council admitted that they or their families have been on the business end of the new traffic cameras breaking the speed limit, they showed support to the sheriff’s office and thanked Lewis for the update.

“It really is a clear picture,” said Wicomico Council member Gail Bartkovich, who added that while the driver can’t be seen there’s no mistaken the car caught by the speed cameras.

Lewis agreed and revealed that his department would like to add one or two more cameras in county school zones by year’s end. This week, Lewis reported that the cameras will be set up at Beaver Run Elementary School and West Side Intermediate School. In the near future, the locations of all of the cameras will be posted directly on the sheriff’s office website at www.wicomicosheriff.com. For those who still harbor complaints about the unmanned eyes in area school zones, Lewis reminded the public that the cameras only activate if someone is driving more than 12 mph over the posted limit.

He added that if a deputy had been the one to issue the citation the fines would have been higher, points would have been added to the driver’s license and Wicomico wouldn’t have received any of the revenue generated from the fines, which would have gone to the state.