NMA E-Newsletter #121: Enlightened vs. Opportunistic

This is a tale of two cities and how they approach their traffic safety responsibilities. As the newsletter title intimates, Roseville (California) and Chevy Chase Village (Maryland) represent a contrast of law enforcement philosophies.

Let’s start with Roseville.

Former Sacramento City Manager Ray Kerridge moved into that same role with Roseville a year ago. More recently, the city hired Police Chief Daniel Hahn, who also served in Sacramento. Together, Kerridge and Hahn have established a singular new objective for the police force: Reduce accidents. The emphasis is no longer on writing a certain number of tickets each shift.

The Roseville police are making a similar number of traffic stops post-Kerridge/Hahn, but the officers now are encouraged to give out more warnings than tickets. The assumption is that warnings have the same safety impact as tickets — for the stopped motorists as well as for passersby.

It is working. The city averaged 209 issued citations per month over a recent five-month stretch. The monthly average in the preceding two years was 1253 tickets. At the same time, the number of traffic accidents dropped from 137 to 127 per month.

It is allowed to work because revenue is not a major factor. Roseville retains less than 15 percent of each $233 speeding ticket, with the rest of the money going to the State of California. It is comforting to know that Roseville is making fewer contributions to the state coffers under Kerridge and Hahn.

Chevy Chase Village is opportunistic. Actually, greedy might be a better description.

The village of 2000 residents grosses $3 million per year from its speed cameras. That volume is no doubt enhanced by the fact that Chevy Chase Village borders the northern outskirts of Washington D.C. (Location, location, location!) The annual operating budget for the entire village is $4.5 million.

Maryland state law does require that speed camera revenue be spent on public safety programs. It is just a bit vague on what that constitutes. Even if small localities like Chevy Chase Village are conscientious about applying the money collected from photo tickets to safety projects, the inefficiency of such programs can be staggering.

A neighboring city administrator estimates that his overhead cost to manage their speed camera program is more than one third of collected revenue.

The camera companies are smiling all the way to the bank.

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