Berlin Officials Agree To Explore Adding Speed Cameras

Berlin Officials Agree To Explore Adding Speed Cameras
Police Chief Arnold Downing talks about potential speed cameras Monday. Photo by Charlene Sharpe

BERLIN– Officials in Berlin are exploring the possibility of installing speed cameras near schools.

Police Chief Arnold Downing on Monday outlined how a speed camera program would work with the Berlin Town Council. Elected officials agreed they wanted to continue exploring the concept, which Downing said would aid in speeding enforcement.

“With a smaller town, the opportunity to do aggressive enforcement is less,” he said. “With these cameras we’d be able to have an enforcement component without actual officers or manpower.”

Downing told the council automated speed enforcement had been state regulated since 2009. In Maryland, jurisdictions that have speed cameras have to have signs alerting motorists to photo enforcement and can only place cameras within half a mile of a school. Photo enforcement can only be active between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.  The town would have to get approval to put cameras on state roads.

“Our roads, we have a lot more leeway,” Downing said.

He added that the vendor would conduct a traffic study to determine the best locations for camera placement and would handle the processing of violations. No one will receive points on their license for violations and the maximum fine allowed is $40. According to Downing, the vendor’s expenses are covered by the revenue from violations. He said in most cases, there ends up being a 60/40 or 55/45 split. With one camera, the Delmar Police Department saw gross revenue of $21,360. Once the vendor took out the cost of program expenses, the town received $11,764 in revenue in a year. In Snow Hill, where there is also one camera, the police department saw revenue of $31,564 once the vendor took expenses. With six speed cameras, the Salisbury Police Department saw gross revenue of $595,797 and net revenue of $394,097, according to Downing.

Downing said in some jurisdictions the revenue figure had decreased the longer the cameras had been in operation. He said five years ago, the Salisbury gross revenue figure had been $800,000.

“If education works the violations themselves should go down,” he said. “When you look at the number of cameras, that makes a difference too.”

When Councilman Jack Orris asked about potential camera placement, Downing said Seahawk Road was an obvious choice.

“Flower Street really would be very difficult because we only have a short space (within a half mile of a school) between the dump and the corner,” Downing said.

He said other possibilities could include Main Street and West Street though actual locations would be determined by the vendor’s study. He noted that in order to receive violations, motorists had to be going at least 12 mph over the speed limit.

“A vendor’s not going to put a camera where they won’t make money,” he said.

Downing indicated the state would not approve speed cameras on Route 50 or Route 113. And while the department would have to have an officer calibrate the cameras each day, he said that didn’t take much time and the department would still be saving time because that officer wouldn’t have to sit and do speed enforcement.

Mayor Zack Tyndall stressed that while revenue would be associated with cameras that wasn’t the reason the town was looking into automated enforcement.

“When you look at these numbers, it’s easy to fixate on dollars and cents,” Tyndall said. “But the goal is to see that trend down. The goal is to get people to abide by the speed limit and keep our streets safe.”

Orris said he’d like to hear from the public regarding the idea of speed cameras.

Councilman Steve Green said he was in support of moving the issue ahead for further discussion.

“The dollars are important but to me it’s less about dollars than getting people to slow down,” he said.

Councilman Jay Knerr said he agreed with continuing the discussion and Councilwoman Shaneka Nichols left no doubt as to her support.

“You’ve just made my night,” she said.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.